Fayette County

Distillery District townhomes, houses near Fayette Mall approved

The front bar area of Manchester Music Hall. The Distillery District venu will sit across from new townhouses approved for Tarr Trace.
The front bar area of Manchester Music Hall. The Distillery District venu will sit across from new townhouses approved for Tarr Trace. palcala@herald-leader.com

A proposal to build 34 new townhomes near Lexington’s growing Distillery District and an 18-home development off Saybrook Road received key approvals Thursday from a government planning body.

The Urban County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the final development plan for 34 townhomes on Tarr Trace, just off Manchester Street near Oliver Lewis Way. The Manchester Development LLC development will be built at 949 and 955 Tarr Trace, which was once called Pine Street, across from the Manchester Music Hall.

Some of the townhouse units will front Oliver Lewis Way. Others will face Tarr Trace.

That area was originally supposed to be a hotel when the redevelopment of the Distillery District was proposed nearly a decade ago. The townhomes would be the largest residential project in the Manchester Street corridor since the Distillery District developed in recent years into an entertainment and dining hub west of downtown.

Richard Murphy, a lawyer who represents the developers, said Manchester Development LLC has agreed to do some street widening and add curbs and part of a sidewalk along Tarr Trace. The developers would prohibit parking on one side of Tarr Trace, he said.

No one objected to the Distillery District project during Thursday’s meeting. The vote was final and does not require approval of the Urban County Council.

The planning commission also voted unanimously to approve a zone change from agricultural urban to single-family residential for 10.4 acres at 3455 Saybrook Road — which is near Fayette Mall between the Monticello neighborhood and Robinwood subdivision in south Lexington. The plans call for 18 new homes to go on the property that was once the site of a private sewage treatment plant.

Multiple housing developments have been proposed on the nearly rectangular parcel since the sewage plant closed in the late 1980s and a park later occupied part of the site. In 1994, Ball Homes proposed building 22 houses there, but the project was pulled after neighbors raised concerns about environmental impacts.

In 2015, Lex Properties, the owner of the land, proposed building 27 houses. The Urban County Planning Commission voted 8-1 to deny the zone change in August 2015. But the developer eventually withdrew its application.

Lex Properties returned to the planning commission with a different development plan that included 15 single-family houses and 17 townhomes in November 2016. But the commission ultimately decided to nix the townhomes and reverted to the original plan.

But the Urban County Council voted unanimously to deny the zone change in February 2017.

Lex Properties, now called Wynndale Development, returned to the planning commission with the current proposal for 18 single-family homes earlier this year.

Roughly half the 10.4 acres is in a flood plain.

Neighbors had opposed previous developments that included townhomes and more than 27 homes because it was too much development on land so close to a flood zone. Sewage overflows have been a long-standing issue in the neighborhood.

Jacob Walbourn, a lawyer for the developers, said they worked with the Robinwood and Monticello neighborhood associations on the current development plan and got their approval for the first time. Walbourn said they are willing to turn the area in the flood plain over to the city, possibly for a park. But Walbourn said they would be OK with a stipulation that a homeowners association manage the green space if the city does not take it over.

Some neighbors said homes continue to have sewage overflow problems — with sewage backing up into their homes. If those problems aren’t corrected before the 18 new homes are built, it could cause additional sewage overflow into other homes.

Walbourn said the pipes in that area have to be replaced by the city. Some are clay.

“I’m told that solution is on the way,” Walbourn said. “We are trying to time our construction at the same time that the project — replacing the lines — is at the same time.”

Several neighbors said they were happy with the compromise.

Robin Young of the Robinwood neighborhood association said it’s been a 23-year process. But after a lot of back and forth, the current plan for 18 homes was the best option.

“This is a good example of how it can be worked out,” Young said.

The Saybrook zone change must now go to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council for final approval.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall