Fly over a property on Old Frankfort Pike where construction debris is being dumped
A landowner on the corner of Alexandria Drive and Old Frankfort Pike has been cited by Lexington officials eight times over the past six months for various building code, engineering and environmental violations at a construction fill site, city records show.
FRM Lawson LLC, which owns the land at 404 Alexandria Drive, received its first violation in November for allowing dirt to spill onto Old Frankfort Pike, where the entrance to the dumping area is located. Other violations from three different city departments include allowing non-approved construction debris to be dumped on the site, failing to have erosion control in place to stop dirt from entering roadways and streams, and allowing debris to be dumped outside of approved areas.
A neighborhood group fed up with the towering mound of debris — which they claim is nearly 40 feet tall — is considering suing the city to stop the mound from continuing to grow.
Josh Cairns, a manager with FRM Lawson LLC, said the company is working with the city to correct violations and that the fill material on the property will eventually be graded and leveled to below street level. Cairns said the company is waiting on both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Kentucky Division of Water to sign off on permits to fill a flood plain behind the current pile. Once FRM Lawson gets the appropriate sign offs, the debris mound will be leveled, he said.
Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for the city, said the city is checking on the site daily to ensure the landowner complies with all city regulations. Two of the eight violations are still outstanding. They include determining whether appropriate fill is going on that site and whether satisfactory erosion control measures are in place.
“We are allowed to put concrete in the fill area but not concrete with rebar in it,” Cairns said. “We thought we could grind the concrete on site, but we cannot. We are working to have the concrete removed.”
Some of the construction debris on the site is coming from the ongoing expansion of the Lexington Convention Center on Main Street. However, the center’s contractors are not responsible for ensuring that debris dumped at the site follows all city guidelines. That’s the landowner’s responsibility, city officials said.
“It is legal to put ‘appropriate’ fill there. Appropriate fill material and methods are set forth by the city’s Construction Inspection Manual (Section 5.5), and must be certified by a licensed professional engineer via a geotechnical exploration,” Straub said.
The six previous notice of violations have been corrected, city records show.
FRM Lawson was issued a land disturbance permit in December 2018 before a development plan for the site was filed. Land disturbance permits are not typically issued until development plans are certified or approved by the planning commission.
Straub said the city made a mistake.
“Our internal practice has been to issue a land disturbance permit after the development plan has been certified,” Straub said. “ In this case, the land disturbance permit was issued on December 12, 2018, prior to certification of the plan. The permit was issued by an employee who was unaware of the internal practice.”
The development plan was approved by the Urban County Planning Commission on May 9. That plan includes adding six buildings on the property, which is U shaped and has frontage on both Alexandria Drive and Old Frankfort Pike.
Cairns said the company has had a lot of interest in the site, which is zoned industrial, but there are no specific plans for the site. There is little vacant industrial-zoned land available in Fayette County.
A nonprofit neighborhood group called Lexington-Frankfort Scenic Corridor Inc. has sent a letter to its constituents encouraging them to call Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton and council members about the debris pile at 404 Alexandria Drive.
The group is considering suing the city, the letter said.
“We have retained legal counsel and an engineering firm to assist us in understanding and opposing this project,” the May 29 letter said. The group is concerned the fill encroaches on the flood plain in that area, impacting the Wolf Run watershed.
Tracy Farmer, of the Lexington-Frankfort Scenic Corridor, said farm owners are especially alarmed. If sediment from that site enters the watershed, it will impact farms downstream, he said. Farmer said the scenic corridor group has hired two engineering firms who have looked at the site and determined the fill going into it will not support any future development.
“The city has signed an EPA consent decree and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to improve water quality yet they are allowing this to impact streams. They are literally creating another problem,” Farmer said.
The city’s agreement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to improve water quality includes nearly $590 million in sewer and stormwater upgrades.
“There are so many organizations in this area that are appalled at the way the city has handled this,” Farmer said.
Lexington-Fayette Urban County Councilwoman Kathy Plomin represents the area around Alexandria Drive and Old Frankfort Pike.
“We have had complaints from the horse farms in the area and from people who are just driving through that intersection. It’s such an eye sore,” Plomin said. “It’s also a question mark. It keeps getting bigger. It’s been building since November and now the (pile) is over 40 feet tall. People want to know what’s going on.”
Plomin said the city is doing everything it can to ensure the land owner is following city regulations.
“They are on top of it,” Plomin said of the city. “They have issued violations and they are not trying to hide anything.”
The ever-growing pile of debris is adjacent to the future site of a new Secretariat statue and viewing area designed to be a gateway to the scenic Old Frankfort Pike corridor. The statue of the 1973 Triple Crown winner will be in the center of the round-a-bout intersection of Alexandria and Old Frankfort.
Both public and private money is being spent on that project, which has been in the works for years. The statue is scheduled to be unveiled in October. A combination of federal, state and city money will help pay for a viewing area and parking lot, Farmer said. That area will cost $753,900. Of that amount, the federal Transportation Alternative Program is contributing $603,120, the Lexington-Frankfort Scenic Corridor, Inc., is contributing land valued at $58,500, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky is contributing $92,280. The nonprofit Triangle Foundation is paying for the statue.
“This is supposed to be a tourism destination, a place for people to take pictures,” Farmer said. “This makes no sense to me why the city would allow this..”
Cairns said he has been working with the lawyer that represents the corridor group. He said the company will put a landscape buffer around the property to mitigate the view from the proposed Secretariat statue.
“We have every intent to make the property desirable,” Cairns said. “We are trying to do everything we can to work with the city and the corridor group.”