Fayette County

Oak gets break from planning panel

A zone change on land that includes a 300-year-old bur oak was approved by the Fayette County Planning Commission Thursday, but the commission rejected a development plan that called for a street that would destroy the tree.

That means that if the Urban County Council also approves the zoning, developer Kevin Crouse will have to come up with a new plan.

But whether something can be figured out that satisfies the requirements of city planners and state highway officials remains in doubt.

Crouse's attorney, Bill Lear, said state officials already had rejected a plan that would have curved the street around the tree.

It wasn't clear, however, whether that would change if the street is not a collector street that also carried traffic from adjacent neighborhoods. Making it a collector would require the city to build a $3 million bridge across a tributary of South Elkhorn Creek. Lear said he doubted the bridge would ever be built.

The planning commission heard from people concerned about the tree, and from those who said they worried about the density of proposed development, and traffic.

Crouse wants to build 193 townhouses on the 25-acre tract. Lear pointed out that the city's comprehensive plan calls for more density in town to protect farmland from development pressures.

The commission also heard from two families who own historic houses — an 1890 former schoolhouse and house built in the late 1700s by pioneer John Higbee — adjacent to the proposed development.

Attorney Bruce Simpson, who represents the owners, said the townhouse project was too dense, and needed more screening to protect the view from the historic houses.

After the vote, Simpson said his clients will carry the vote against the zone change to the Urban County Council.

"If they were not so interested in maximum density, there might be some way to save the tree," he said.