Fayette County

Lexington inks deal to avoid closing longtime business as Town Branch trail extended

The owners of Landscaper’s Corner are fighting the city’s efforts to condemn property on Old Frankfort Pike for the final section of the Town Branch Trail.
The owners of Landscaper’s Corner are fighting the city’s efforts to condemn property on Old Frankfort Pike for the final section of the Town Branch Trail. bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

Landscaper’s Corner will continue to operate its business at the corner of Old Frankfort Pike and Forbes Road and the city of Lexington will get the land it needs for a portion of the long-delayed Town Branch Trail under a deal inked between the city and landowners in the area.

The city had proposing condemning Landscaper’s Corner and land at 1281, 1287, 1295 Manchester Street for the proposed Town Branch Trail. Old Frankfort Pike becomes Manchester Street at the Forbes Road intersection.

According to agreements with the property owners, Landscaper’s Corner will remain at its current location but will deed over 4,000 square feet on the front of the property for the trail. In exchange, the city will give Landscaper’s Corner more than 12,000 square feet it owns next to Landscaper’s Corner. The agreement, signed July 12, also says the city will give the owners of Landscaper’s Corner $49,000 for relocation expenses in addition to $6,000 for the 4,266 square feet for the trail.

The city will also construct a new entrance into Landscaper’s Corner, making it easier for people to get into the business, said Bruce Simpson, a lawyer for Elaine and Bill Pence, the owners of Landscaper’s Corner.

The trail will cross in front of Landscaper’s Corner at the Forbes and Old Frankfort Pike intersection and then will curve around the edge of property owned by Eavy Hopkins. It will then cross Town Branch Creek at a new trail head and follow the creek behind properties on Manchester Street to the Oliver Lewis Way bridge.

Plans call for the city to build a parking lot adjacent to the trail head behind Hopkins’ property next to the creek.

Previous plans had the trail going through the center of Hopkins property, which had been the planned location for a trail head with a small park and parking lot.

Forbes Rd Alt- Diagram.jpg
The proposed Town Branch Trail will go on one side of property owned by Eavy Hopkins at the corner of Manchester Street and Forbes Road. The previous design had the Town Branch Trail going through Hopkins’ property. LFUCG

Brandi Peacher, a project manager for the city who worked on the agreement, said there will no longer be a park at that location but there will still be a parking area for people to access the trail.

In addition to paying $49,200 for property near Forbes Road that will become the trail, the city also paid Hopkins $72,000, or roughly 12 months in lost rental income. Cliff’s Truck Service, which was leasing a building on Hopkins’ property, moved out after being told by city officials the land was going to be condemned for the trail. Hopkins also received $246,000 for property that faces Manchester Street for a separate intersection improvement project.

“It was a fair price for the land and my client is very happy with the agreement,” said Tom Miller, a lawyer for Hopkins.

The Pences and Hopkins fought the city for years over the proposed condemnation. Both landowners argued the trail should be moved and pleaded with the city to not take their properties via condemnation.

The Pence family has operated a business at the corner of Forbes and Old Frankfort Pike since the 1950s. The company tried to move its landscaping business to a different location after it learned the city wanted to condemn the property for the trail, but it was impossible to find land zoned for a landscaping business that was adequate for their needs, Simpson said.

Simpson said the additional land the city gave to Landscaper’s Corner will be used to store equipment and other items that are currently stored toward the front of its current property, which will eventually become the trail.

“At the end of the day, Mayor Linda Gorton directed her people to step up and do the right thing and the Pences are very appreciative,” Simpson said. The company’s new entrance, which will be further from the Forbes and Old Frankfort Pike intersection, will make it easier for customers to get in and out of the property, he said.

“They gave up 4,000 square feet and are getting nearly 12,000 square feet,” Simpson said.

Gorton, who was elected in November, learned of the plans to condemn the Hopkins and Pence properties after taking office. She asked city officials to find another solution that did not involve shutting down a local business but allowed the trail to proceed, said Peacher.

The city has used a combination of federal, state and local money to build portions of the Town Branch Trail, which currently starts in Masterson Station and ends at Alexandria Drive. The city is using federal transportation funds to build the portion of the trail on the Hopkins and Pence properties. To get all of its federal funds, the city had to have agreements with Hopkins and the Pences to transfer the property to the city for the trail as soon as possible, Peacher said.

Keith Lovan, an engineer with the city, said they are still waiting for sign offs from state officials for construction to begin on the remaining sections of Town Branch Trail from Alexandria Drive to Oliver Lewis Way. Lovan said they hope construction on the long-delayed final section will start sometime in 2020.