The CentrePointe block — where a pond of water has stood for several weeks, overflowing onto sidewalks in this week's torrential rain — is to get more dirt in the next few days.
Nearby business owners complained Thursday about the unsightly, muddy block in downtown Lexington, as well as the potential health hazard posed by standing water.
"We're tickled to death to have a mosquito breeding ground in front of our restaurant," Robin Feeney, an owner of Caro's restaurant, 113 South Upper Street, said facetiously.
The block was cleared a year ago to make way for a $250 million luxury high-rise hotel and condominium project that has stalled because of lack of financing.
Feeney said she was trying to keep her sense of humor. A sandwich board over the grill Thursday advertised a "Centrepond special" — a pork tenderloin sandwich for $6.50.
The health department treated the CentrePointe site with mosquito larvicide about 10 days ago, said Jessica Cobb, the department's manager of environmental health and epidemiology.
"We routinely bait places that have standing water," Cobb said. "That takes care of the immediate public health threat of mosquitoes breeding."
The larvicide should remain effective for 120 days, she said.
Developer Dudley Webb was contacted after the site was treated, Cobb said. "We asked Mr. Webb if he can do this in the future."
Webb told the Herald-Leader Thursday that more dirt will be hauled, either on Friday or Monday, depending on the weather, to fill the low place that is holding water.
University of Kentucky turf specialists and local garden shop owner Louis Hillenmeyer advised Webb not to plant grass seed before mid-August because it will probably be too hot for seed to germinate. "We've been trying to stall as long as we could" to get to that date, Webb said.
He also was told "we would be wasting our time" to put seed down without a sprinkler system. An irrigation system will be installed on the block "as soon as the ground dries out enough to get a backhoe in there," he said. That could be as early as next week.
Webb first thought a solution would be to pump the water out. But, he said, one of his contractors told him the federal Clean Water Act prohibits pumping muddy water into the storm sewers because the water would flow into streams such as Town Branch.
Susan Straub, spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Newberry, said the city does not have the ability to enforce "no standing water" on property "as long as it is rain water."
"If it is sewage, yes. Rain water, no," she said.
The Webbs had to get a city grading permit when dirt was hauled to the site to cover construction rubble. That permit gives the owner 14 days to seed or mulch the site once grading is complete.
The 14-day period has lapsed. "Engineering is sending the developer a letter asking why have you not done that," Straub said. The letter has not gone out, "but it is in the works."
The grading permit also required the CentrePointe developers to file a site plan on how sediment would be contained on-site and not flow into the storm sewers. "You should have been here the other day in the torrential rain. It was washing mud right out on the street," said Keegan Frank, a customer in McCarthy's Irish Bar.
Straub said: "I suspect there was water everywhere on Tuesday. It was a pretty serious storm."
The city has not received complaints about standing water on the prominent downtown block, Straub said. "No complaints, at least not that I'm aware of."
However, the Division of Engineering and the Downtown Development Authority had been in contact with the Webbs about the condition of the site. "Engineering talked to them today," she said.
The CentrePointe pond is becoming a point of derision on Facebook, with doctored photographs showing the Loch Ness monster rising from the pond, a partially submerged submarine and canoes.
Business owner Kristy Matherly said, "I don't care if a hotel goes up or not. But anything would look better than that."
Matherly and her husband Steve own Sunrise Bakery on West Main Street, which overlooks the muddy block.
On South Upper, Feeney fears for the future of her little restaurant, saying it has suffered since the buildings were razed on the CentrePointe block. She said the sidewalks next to the site are treacherous to pedestrians.
But she can still joke about the pond. Feeney has told customers, "If we can't be a restaurant, we can be a bait and tackle shop."