Fayette County

Lexington gives businessman 30 days to remove zip lines

Burgess Carey walked along Boone Creek on property he owns. He plans to offer tours in the area.
Burgess Carey walked along Boone Creek on property he owns. He plans to offer tours in the area. Lexington Herald-Leader

Lexington's planning department sent Burgess Carey, owner of Boone Creek Properties, a letter Monday notifying him that zip lines on his property violate Lexington zoning laws and giving him 30 days to remove them.

If Carey does not comply, the city will start fining him, said Chris King, director of the Division of Planning. The planning division also could work with the county attorney's office to file a criminal complaint against Carey, King said.

Carey has the right to appeal the planning staff's decision in the next 30 days, King said in his official notice of violation to Carey.

Neither Carey nor his attorney John Park could be reached for comment.

Carey applied to the Board of Adjustment in 2011 for permission to expand activities at his private fishing club on Boone Creek. He wanted to create a recreational facility that would include hiking, kayaking, mountain biking and camping. The main attractions would be zip lines and canopy tours.

The Board of Adjustment turned down Carey's Boone Creek Adventures request in January 2012. He filed an appeal with the administration board that reviews complaints against planning and zoning decisions, King said. That appeal is pending.

Last month, Carey said he had scaled back his plans, but he was going forward with canopy tours. For canopy tours, wooden platforms are built in the trees, something like stands used by deer hunters. These are connected by short zip lines. Carey said he thinks his 10-year-old permit from the Board allowed these structures.

The planning staff made at least two site visits to Carey's property along Boone Creek in southeastern Fayette County, off Old Richmond Road, and had conversations with Carey and his attorney John Park, King said.

In addition, staff reviewed Boone Creek Adventures' advertisements and Web-based information to verify Carey's plans.

King said operating a "commercial or noncommercial" recreational facility in rural Fayette County would only be allowed as a conditional use with Board of Adjustment approval. The Board denied Carey's request for conditional use permit on Jan. 27, 2012.

In 2000, the Board gave Carey conditional approval to operate a private fishing club, but King said in his letter that wooden platforms, zip lines and opening the property to the general public were not part of that permit.

Membership of the club was limited to 60. There had to be an established membership list and dues were to be collected. Carey's proposed expanded recreational activities do not fit these earlier requirements laid down by the Board of Adjustment, King said.

The zoning ordinance does not define the exact nature of private club memberships, King said, but letting people buy a single-day memberships is not what was anticipated when the private fishing club was approved.

Mary Diana Hanna, president of the Old Richmond Road Neighborhood Association that filed the formal written complaint against Carey, said the city's letter to Carey, telling him he was in violation of zoning laws and to remove the zip lines, was "a good start."

However, the letter did not address why Carey was not required to have a building permit to build the tree stands that he has constructed, she said. Nor did the city fine him for building without a permit.

Neither did King's letter address Carey's angler club "which has not been in compliance for 13 years," Hanna said. "It is not a private club. They advertise the club over the internet as a place for parties, corporate events and retreats. That's not a private club."

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