The Lexington council gave final approval Tuesday evening to a zone change that will allow 14 upscale townhouses on Tates Creek Road, despite opposition from neighbors.
After a more than three hour hearing, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council voted 10-1 Tuesday to rezone approximately two acres on Tates Creek Road between Rebecca Drive and Albany Road from single-family residential to planned neighborhood residential.
Two of the proposed lots are vacant and one has a house on it. The council made some changes to address neighbors' concerns, including allowing only single-family townhouses and multifamily homes on the two-acre plot.
The Urban County Planning Commission voted unanimously in March to approve the same zone change. All zone changes go to the council for final approval.
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The Off Season LLC project includes 14 townhouses that will be two stories high. The proposed townhouses will average 3,000 square feet with attached garages. The price of the townhouses will likely be more than $500,000, developers have said.
Six townhouses would front Tates Creek, with eight more behind them. There will be a six-foot buffer at the back of the property.
Darby Turner, a lawyer who represents Off Season LLC, said the townhouses are designed for retirees. The master bedroom will be on the ground floor. The second floor will have two additional bedrooms.
"We've already had calls from realtors and from people who are interested in this project," Turner said. "It will be a very nice development in keeping with the Tates Creek Road corridor."
More than a dozen residents from the Glendover neighborhood told the council they opposed the zone change, citing concerns about traffic and the development's density.
People turning into the property will likely cause traffic back ups and accidents, they said.
There are several churches in that same area that have people entering and leaving at all times, further complicating traffic patterns, neighbors said. The property is adjacent to the Panagia Patovasilissa Greek Orthodox Church and across Tates Creek from Immanuel Baptist and Tates Creek Christian churches.
Others said they were concerned that changing the zoning to allow for multifamily homes would set a precedent for other zone changes in the area.
"How could you say no to the next one?" said Joe Martinolich, who lives nearby.
Janet Saylor said adding 14 townhouses and additional parking will bring problems with stormwater run off.
"If you want townhouses, how about fewer of them?" Saylor said.
Steve White said the neighborhood has requested a different zone during the Urban County Planning Commission meeting that would allow for townhouses but would not allow for other multifamily housing, but developers rejected the idea.
White suggested the council put restrictions on the zone change, including decreasing the number of townhouses to 12. White also requested more buffer between the back of the property and its neighbors.
A proposed brick boundary wall in the rear should be reduced from 8 feet to 6 feet, he said. Plans call for a four-foot wall along Tates Creek Road.
Libby Farmer, who lives in the same block as the townhouses, said the homes in that area are set back more than 120 feet. The townhouses are only set back half that distance. The proposed wall is set back only 14 feet.
"This is a beautiful residential section," Farmer said. "We did not buy here to live next door to condos."
Darby said developers had tried to use the zone favored by neighbors but couldn't make the design work. Darby said they tried to meet with the neighborhood prior to the March planning commission meeting but those requests were turned down.
The neighborhood did not mention their concern with the planned residential zone until the planning commission meeting. At that point, it was too late to change its zoning request, he said.
"We had offered to put a note on the final development plan that it will be limited to 14 units," Turner said.
White, who is on the Glendover neighborhood association board, said Turner reached out to him to show him the plans.
"I'm an architect and I can read plans," White said of the reason why the neighborhood did not meet with developers. "We also did not have a lawyer."
Several council members said they were concerned that changing the zone to planned residential would set a precedent that allows higher-density developments in the future..
Councilwoman Susan Lamb, whose district includes the proposed development, made a motion to restrict the property to single-family townhouses and multifamily houses. Lamb said the amount of traffic leaving the property wasn't the issue, but rather that people exiting the property who want to go downtown must either cross at a cut-through in the median or go to Albany Road and make a u-turn.
Traci Wade, the city's planning manager, said traffic engineering had requested to see the final development plan. He said traffic engineering may ask the developer to move the entrance to the property.
"We already have a ton of complications at the intersection at Albany and Tates Creek ," said Lamb. "The traffic is already a nightmare on Tates Creek Road."
Councilman Fred Brown was the only council member to vote against the zone change. Brown said he was concerned the zone change would set a bad precedent. Those who voted in favor of the zone change were Lamb, Vice Mayor Steve Kay, Angela Evans, Joseph Smith, Jake Gibbs, Kathy Plomin, Richard Moloney, Preston Worley, Peggy Henson, Bill Farmer Jr.
The city's planning staff had recommended approval of the zone change. The city's comprehensive plan, which guides development in Lexington, encourages more dense development, particularly on major corridors such as Tates Creek.