Jessamine County

‘People are heart sick about it.’ Massive development planned for KY golf course.

Neighbors are fighting a developer’s push to put 343 houses, townhouses and condominiums on what is now a private golf course in Nicholasville.

Tall Oak LLC’s request to rezone the Lone Oak Golf Course at 44 Club Drive and 140 Lone Oak Drive from largely agricultural zones to residential zones is scheduled to be heard at the Nicholasville Planning Commission meeting Monday.

The proposal includes 200 single-family homes, 25 condominium buildings with 100 units and 43 townhouses. The developer wants to rezone the club house and pool for commercial use.

“The plans are to keep up the pool if they can find someone to run it and to lease the clubhouse as a restaurant,” said Bruce Smith, a lawyer for Tall Oaks. The one-story condos are designed for seniors. The townhouses will be two stories. Many of the homes are along the perimeter of the development. and the condos and townhouses are toward the center of the property.

If approved, construction will likely be phased in over a long period of time — perhaps up to 12 years, Smith said.

“Market conditions will dictate (the construction schedule),” Smith said.

In its application for the zone change, Tall Oak LLC said the golf course was no longer financially viable. In addition, the city of Nicholasville continues to grow and is in need of additional housing to meet that demand. By offering single-family, condos and townhouses it also meets the need for different housing types. That’s a goal of the city’s comprehensive plan, which guides development and helps decide what development can go where.

The battle over the development has been brewing for months.

In July, the Nicholasville City Commission voted unanimously to annex the approximately 130-acre golf course into the city limits, despite strenuous objections from neighboring residents who opposed the annexation.

Annexation by the city allows Tall Oak LLC to get water and sewer lines extended into the property. It currently has only sewer and water to the former clubhouse.

Neighborhoods surrounding the property say its too much development in such a small area. It will cause traffic headaches and other infrastructure problems that existing streets and water and sewer lines can’t handle, they contend.

The only entrance to the development is on Lone Oak Drive, a neighborhood street that does not have the capacity to handle the influx of traffic a development of that size would create, neighbors say.

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A sign along Lone Oak Drive opposing the development of Lone Oak Golf Course in Nicholasville, Ky., Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. Alex Slitz

“It doesn’t even have sidewalks or curbs,” said Jim Heidinger, who has lived on Fairway Drive for 38 years. Fairway Drive is immediately adjacent to the golf course.

Heidinger and other neighbors who oppose the project say they also are concerned about safety of residents in the development if the zone change is ultimately approved. The development could house upwards of 1,000 people, which is too many for an area with only one access road.

Smith said there is no other available entrance except Lone Oak Drive. The developers have purchased property with the intent of creating a cut through from Club House Lane, which intersects with Lone Oak Drive, to the U.S. 27 bypass. That means not all the traffic to and from the proposed development will have to drive the entire length of Lone Oak, he said.

“It is landlocked on all sides by the neighborhoods,” Smith said of the golf course property. “There are many developments in Nicholasville that only have one entrance.”

The density of the development is not in character with the surrounding neighborhoods, which are single-family homes on larger lots, said Bruce Simpson, a lawyer representing the neighborhoods that oppose the zone change.

“The comprehensive plan has only recommended public use or semi-public use for that land, not residential homes,” he said.

The other top concern is overcrowding of Jessamine County schools.

If many younger families move into the proposed subdivision, there could be more kids than space in the schools, neighbors said.

“That’s enough kids for a new school,” said Jacqueline Kearns, who lives adjacent to the golf course. “Our schools are already overcrowded.”

Others are concerned that if the development is approved it will create more costs to the city than the project will generate in property taxes, which might bring a bump in property taxes. In addition to upgrades for roads, sewer lines and water lines, the city must provide fire and police coverage.

During annexation hearings earlier this summer, Jessamine County Superintendent Matt Moore told the city commission the school systems would adjust to the demand, according to Smith.

Tall Oak LLC also has tried to keep lot sizes on the perimeter of the property similar in size to surrounding neighborhoods, Smith said.

He said the developer would have to pick up the tab for many of the hard infrastructure costs, such as extending water and sewer lines.

Still, over the past several years as more development has occurred in the area, there are increasing problems with sewer overflows, Heidinger said.

“There are people on Lone Oak Drive, particularly when it rains really hard, that have sewage back up in their basements,” Heidinger said. “My wife and I have been walking the neighborhoods and talking to people. I don’t know of a single person who supports this. People are heart sick about it.”

Heidinger wrote a letter to the editor in the Jessamine Journal in June about the proposed development, asking Tall Oak investors Clay Corman and Bill Hayden not to proceed with the proposal and keep it as a golf course. More than 90 neighborhood residents signed a petition that accompanied Heidinger’s letter.

If the planning commission approves the zone changes at its Monday meeting the issue then goes to the city commission for a final vote.

Lone Oak Golf Course is one of several private golf courses in Central Kentucky that have gone belly up or have been sold in recent years. In Fayette County, the failure of Andover Golf Club led to a bankruptcy and eventually resulted in several neighborhood associations buying the former course. The neighborhood groups then sold part of the land to a developer for townhouses and a commercial development off Todds Road.

A lawsuit is still pending over the 2018 approval by the Paris City Commission of its own rezoning request for the redevelopment of a former golf course in Paris. The property was purchased by the city for $650,000 and then given to a developer for a proposed distillery project.