Without any discussion or comment, the Paris City Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve a zone change that would allow one of the state’s oldest golf courses to become an industrial site for an unknown project.
The vote overturned an Aug. 16 decision by the Bourbon County Joint Planning Commission to deny the city’s request to rezone 48 acres of the Stoner Creek Golf Course from conservation to light industrial.
The fight over the fate of the golf course will now head to court.
Bruce Simpson, a lawyer for a neighborhood adjacent to the golf course, said after the Thursday vote his clients will appeal the city’s decision to approve its own zone change request without telling residents how the land will be used. The city has an option to purchase the property and pushed for the zone change.
“In 30 years of representing citizens before locally elected officials, I’ve never witnessed a more repugnant and arrogant abuse of power,” Simpson said. “A private developer would never have been able to obtain rezoning had it filed and pursued the secret application advanced by Paris elected officials.”
He said a private developer pursuing the same rezoning would have had to demonstrate three things: “how the millions of gallons of nasty urban stormwater runoff that will be generated by this 48 acre industrial site will be managed and how existing downstream flood prone homes will be protected, and how the Paris drinking water will be protected from the millions of gallons of polluted stormwater that will be dumped into Stoner Creek. “
The city has said it has an option to purchase the property for $650,000 from Bud Wells Jr., who owns the course.
Simpson said the city has not yet signed the deed for the property transfer. That means the city just increased the property value for Wells because light industrial land is more valuable than land zoned conservation, he said.
Before the Thursday vote, a lawyer for the city read various reasons for approving the zone change, including: there is not enough land zoned industrial in Bourbon County, there are other properties in the area also zoned light industrial, and the property should not have been zoned conservation, which is the most restrictive zoning classification.
Wells purchased the golf course in January 2016 for $410,000, according to property tax records. In its rationale for overturning the planning commission, the city also said that the golf course was failing and could not longer operate as a golf course.
Earlier this month, the planning commission voted 6 to 3 with one member abstaining to deny the city’s zone change after a more than four hour public hearing. More than 200 people attended the meeting and only two people spoke in favor of the project.
Paris officials have declined to say what might go on the property, acknowledging they have signed a nondisclosure agreement with an unknown entity.
At a Tuesday meeting, the Paris City Commission gave the resolution for the zone change a first reading and also decided not to hold a public hearing or allow public comment. More than 160 people attended the special meeting Tuesday night.
Less than a 100 people attended the Thursday morning meeting.
Those who oppose the zone change say there are stormwater and flooding issues surrounding Stoner Creek Golf Course. Paving the golf course could cause additional run off, they said.
Others said they aren’t sure why the city is spending $650,000 for the golf course when there is land in Bourbon County already zoned industrial, including nearly 90 acres in the Paris-Bourbon County Industrial Park.
Daron Jordan, the Paris city manager, has previously said the city has spoken to companies in the distillery and manufacturing industries about the golf course site. Jordan has also said much of the land currently zoned industrial in the county is already earmarked for other potential projects.