Developers of a 27-home residential subdivision have agreed to conduct further environmental assessments on the property off Saybrook Road and to delay a zoning change request scheduled to be heard this week.
The move was prompted by concerns from neighbors and city planners about potential environmental problems on the 10-acre tract that once was the site of a private sewage treatment plant.
"We think they need to do deep core samples because we really don't know what's down there," said Roy Alcorn, whose home is next to the proposed development.
The Urban County Planning Commission was scheduled to hear a request by Lex Properties LLC, the developers of the subdivision, to change the zoning from agricultural urban to residential at its meeting Thursday.
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But Richard Murphy, a lawyer for Lex Properties, said Tuesday that the company has agreed to postpone the zoning change request until August so the group can conduct further environmental assessments on the property. In its initial review of the zoning request, planning staff had recommended postponement in part because of possible environmental concerns. Murphy said an initial environmental assessment is almost complete and did not show any problems, but the developers will conduct a more detailed assessment in coming weeks.
"We know this is an area of concern to the city people and the neighbors," Murphy said. "To be safe, we are going to conduct some additional sampling. We could not get that sampling done by Thursday, so we have asked for a one-month postponement."
It's the second time in 22 years that Alcorn and his neighbors in the Monticello and Robinwood subdivisions have questioned development on the now-grassy site that is home to deer, rabbits and other wildlife. In 1993, Ball Homes had proposed building 22 homes on the 10-acre plot, but the project was pulled because an environmental assessment raised red flags, neighbors say.
The tanks of the former private sewage treatment plant that once served the Monticello neighborhood have been removed, as has much of the equipment used to run the private plant.
But Alcorn said that after the sewage tanks were removed, the property owner, Ted Osborne, allowed people to dump on the site. Alcorn saw several dump trucks arrive at 2 or 3 a.m. Osborne has since died. Lex Properties bought the land from Osborne's estate.
"It kind of makes you wonder what they were dumping back there if they had to do it at 2 or 3 a.m.," Alcorn said. "Even if most of the sewer contamination may have decayed, I think they need to find out before they build houses, just to protect the people who are going to buy those houses."
Alcorn and his neighbors also are concerned that the developers are asking to zone the property R-3, a higher density that allows for condominiums and apartment buildings. Most of the neighborhoods in the area are R-1, or single-family residential.
"We don't want them to come back and put in apartments or townhomes," he said.
Murphy said Lex Properties LLC has agreed to a conditional zoning restriction that will allow only single-family homes. The group is requesting an R-3 designation because the R-3 zone has more lenient requirements for front and back yard setbacks.
"Most homes in Lexington are now built in the R-3 zone," Murphy said.
Alcorn said Saybrook Road has approximately 20 houses on it and currently dead-ends before the proposed development. Saybrook Road is the only entrance and exit into the new subdivision.
"It will double the amount of traffic on that road," he said.
Alex Dixon, who also lives on Saybrook Road, echoed Alcorn's concerns.
"The only people who drive on this road live on it or are visiting someone who lives on it," Dixon said. When Dixon moved to Lexington two years ago, he did a lot of research on the best schools and places to live. They chose a house on Saybrook Road so his kids could attend Wellington Elementary School — which had struggled with overcrowding until recently, Dixon said. Last year, his daughter's class had 28 students in it. This year, her third-grade class has only 20 students.
More homes means more overcrowding at Wellington, he said.
Murphy said the developers had no choice but to use Saybrook to access the new development.
"Almost all of the roads that adjoin the property are cul-de-sacs," Murphy said. "Whatever is developed (at this site) will have to use Saybrook as the access point."