Zoning changes approved for Nicholasville Rd. shopping center

Aerial photo of the Fritz Farm property at Man O War Blvd. and Nicholasville Rd. in Lexington, Ky., Wednesday, October 17, 2012. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff
Aerial photo of the Fritz Farm property at Man O War Blvd. and Nicholasville Rd. in Lexington, Ky., Wednesday, October 17, 2012. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff Herald-Leader

The Urban County Planning Commission heard three hours of debate Thursday before voting unanimously to approve zoning changes for The Summit, a 50-acre commercial-residential development planned for Nicholasville Road and Man o' War Boulevard.

Panel members said they sympathized with neighboring residents' concerns about traffic and other issues, but pointed out that government planners had recommended approval.

Several members also said that "the time has come" for development on the Fritz farm property at the southeast corner of Nicholasville and Man o' War.

Thursday's zoning changes still need approval from the Urban County Council. And construction can't start until a final development plan is approved.

But David Silverstein, a principal with Bayer Properties, the firm that is developing The Summit, said a "significant portion" of the project should open in fall 2015. Some parts might be phased in later, he said.

Project officials told commissioners Thursday that developing The Summit will cost more than $92.5 million, generating an estimated $153 million in total economic impact during construction alone.

Nearly 1,400 jobs would be generated during construction, producing an estimated $40.4 million in wages, they said.

Attorney Bill Lear, who represented Bayer, said developers had spent two years working on the proposal, which he said is in full compliance with the city's Comprehensive Plan. Lear said Bayer's traffic plans for The Summit would provide "maximum ingress and egress," and that its proposal for a signalized entrance off Nicholasville Road has won "conceptual" approval from the state Transportation Cabinet.

A large retention basin planned on the site will help solve long-term storm water issues in the area, Lear said.

"We haven't cut corners; we have looked at all the details," Silverstein told the commissioners. "This is a plan that should be allowed to move forward."

Such claims did not, however, sway attorney Hank Graddy, who represented Don't Overload Nicholasville Road with more Traffic, an organization of residents in the Nicholasville-Man o' War area.

Graddy said the planned development is too big, and scoffed at assertions that it would comply with the South Nicholasville Road Small Area Plan's suggestion for "village-style development." The Summit is "no village," he said.

Graddy and traffic engineer Adam Kirk also questioned Bayer's traffic study for project, arguing that it under-estimated the effect of the extra traffic that would be generated.

Attorney Darby Turner, representing Fayette Mall, raised similar questions, declaring that traffic on Nicholasville Road could be nearing a "critical point."

That prompted a quip from Lear, who said he thought he was "having an out of body experience" at hearing Fayette Mall was worried about traffic.

At one point commission member Carolyn Plumlee raised the possibility of a compromise if Bayer would consider residents' suggestion to remove some of the commercial buildings in its plan.

Silverstein said removing them would "gut" the plan, describing the idea as "beyond reasonable."

Changes approved by the commission Thursday would change zoning at the site from Agricultural-Urban and Single-Family Residential to Mixed-Use Community.

One staff recommendation also approved Thursday would prohibit commercial or business development within 75 feet of any residential zone in the development.

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