The owner of a high-traffic site in Corbin has pulled his land from consideration for a planned Keeneland quarter horse track and instant racing parlor in the area.
The tract is in a prime spot at the busy intersection of Interstate 75 and U.S. 25E, but it faced a big hurdle: It's in an unincorporated area of Corbin with no legal alcohol sales, and Keeneland wants to serve alcohol at the track.
Efforts to get around that problem became tangled up in annexation issues, and it wasn't clear the impasse could be resolved any time soon.
Jerry Wayne Garland II, who owns the 100-acre tract, said in an email to the Herald-Leader and others that he was "withdrawing his bid" to have Keeneland build a track at the site.
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Keeneland has considered at least one other local site, near an industrial park on the Corbin bypass. That parcel is inside the incorporated city limits of Corbin, which is wet, so Keeneland could serve alcohol if it built the track there.
Garland said in his email that Keeneland was expected to pick a site before it hosts the Breeder's Cup at the end of October.
"By withdrawing our bid, I hope that Keeneland will make their decision quicker and start construction immediately," Garland said.
Amy Gregory, a spokeswoman for Keeneland, said the track could not respond to Garland's announcement.
Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney said he had not heard about Garland's decision before the newspaper called. However, it won't interfere with Keeneland coming to Corbin because the track is still looking at the site on the bypass, McBurney said.
"As far as we know, that's the place in Corbin where it's going to be," he said.
A real-estate broker representing Garland had said that a shopping center company also was interested in his land at Exit 29 on I-75.
Garland referred to that in his notice, saying that putting the track on the Corbin bypass, and retail stores and restaurants on his land across town would give Corbin "two first-class developments instead of possibly one."
He did not return messages seeking further comment.
Keeneland has won approval to acquire the license of the struggling Thunder Ridge harness-racing track in Prestonsburg and convert it to a quarter horse track.
A Keeneland official has said the organization is committed to building the track in the Corbin area.
Keeneland has said it hopes to begin holding races at the track by summer 2016, with perhaps eight to 12 weekend race dates from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but the track would be open for simulcasting at other times.
The track also wants to put 500 to 700 instant racing terminals, which operate similar to slot machines, at the quarter horse facility.
Garland tried to work out a deal to have both the track and retail development on his land, but a legal decision from the 1930s got in the way.
The old state Court of Appeals, then Kentucky's highest court, ruled in 1932 that there was no authority for a city in one county to annex land across a county line. Corbin had incorporated in two counties, Knox and Whitley, before that decision.
Garland's land adjoins Corbin's limits, and there are scores of nearby businesses, but the area is in southern Laurel County. That means Corbin is barred from annexing it, although it provides municipal services to the area, McBurney said.
State lawmakers could approve letting Corbin take in the area, as city officials have long wanted to do, but the city has gotten no traction for a change in the law.
In trying to resolve the alcohol issue, Garland and representatives asked officials in London to consider annexing the spot. London allows alcohol sales by the drink at larger restaurants.
The plan would have been for London to annex the narrow strip of state right-of-way along I-75 to the Exit 29 interchange to take in Garland's land — a distance of about nine miles.
That proposal ran into another roadblock, however.
Even though the area was not in the city limits, Corbin installed water and sewer service into southern Laurel County decades ago to serve several factories and subdivisions.
State law bars one city from taking in an area where another has utilities unless the two sign an agreement.
Corbin officials were not willing to let London take in an area immediately adjacent to Corbin that the city has served for years.