Jessamine County

Hundreds turn out to oppose controversial rezoning of Nicholasville golf course

After a four-hour meeting that stretched to nearly midnight, the Nicholasville Planning Commission voted to delay a decision on a series of zone changes for a controversial housing development at the Lone Oak Golf Course.

The commission voted shortly after 11 p.m. Monday to resume the hearing on Oct. 28. The rare vote to resume the hearing came after the commission realized they would not have enough time to hear everyone who wanted to speak.

Residents who opposed the development, who packed the Jessamine County Fiscal Court room, had not had an opportunity to speak.

Lone Oak LLC has proposed building 200 single-family houses, 100 condominium units and 43 townhouses on approximately 130 acres of the golf course at 44 Club Dive and 140 Lone Oak Drive. The plans also include turning the golf course clubhouse and pool into a commercial building, which would be open to the public.

The zone changes are largely from agriculture to residential zones.

Bruce Smith, a lawyer for Lone Oak LLC, said the development, known as The Enclave, meets a need for more housing and more diverse types of housing that is outlined in the comprehensive plan, which guides development in Nicholasville.

The property can’t continue as a private golf course, Smith said.

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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’s pretty simple. The golf course is losing money,” Smith said of the need of the proposed zone change. “There is a recognized and definite trend in golf course closing.”

Smith said it will take 10 to 12 years to fully develop the proposed 343 housing units. The developers plan to build about 35 houses a year, he said. The lots on the perimeter of the proposed development are similar in size to the surrounding neighborhoods. The open space in the property — approximately 32 acres — will be maintained by the home owners association. There will be a two and a half mile walking trail that will be open to the public.

“There is no development in this town that has 32 acres of open space,” Smith said.

Smith said the condominiums will cost about $300,000 and will be geared toward seniors. The townhouses will be upwards of $250,000. There will be prohibitions on renting the condos and townhouses.

“This planning commission has always looked favorable on infill projects,” Smith said.

Bruce Simpson, a lawyer who represents neighbors opposed to the project, urged the planning commission to turn the proposal down because there is not enough capacity in city sewer treatment facilities to handle waste from an additional 343 homes. Simpson also argued the development does not meet fire code because it would have only one entrance and exit, and that it could cause potential storm water runoff in an area that already has flooding problems.

Simpson said the 2017 comprehensive plan designates the Lone Oak Golf Course as public or semi-public land. It was never meant to be a neighborhood, he said.

Simpson said the only entrance into the development is Lone Oak Drive, but international fire codes recommend two entrances for developments between 100 and 600 housing units.

“This development does not meet the fire code,” Simpson said.

Smith countered 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 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.

He also argued there are many single-entrance developments in Nicholasville.

“There has not been a single catastrophic event because there was only a single entrance in and out,” Smith said.

Smith said the entryway will be divided, with a separate entrance and exit. That means if something happens at the entrance, the entire development will not be blocked.

Smith argued the planning commission has never turned down a development because of traffic concerns.

Simpson countered that public safety should not be dependent on luck. In Lexington, there was an accident in a neighborhood that had only one entrance that blocked fire trucks from getting to an apartment fire. That meant there was a delay in reaching the apartment fire, where people died, he said.

Diane Zimmerman, a transportation engineer hired by Tall Oak, said the development would generate 214 peak hour trips in the morning and 279 peak hour evening trips.

“There is room for additional capacity,” Zimmerman said of the surrounding roadways. “The roadway is capable of absorbing the traffic that will be generated by this development.”

Simpson said Lone Oak Drive is too narrow to handle that amount of traffic — particularly construction traffic over 12 years.

Lone Oak Drive is only 27 feet wide — five feet less than the current Nicholasville street standard of 32 feet. Club Lane is only 26 feet wide.

Lone Oak Drive has no curbs or sidewalks or even a center stripe, neighborhood residents have said.

Simpson also questioned why more wasn’t done to address storm water runoff in the area. Taking green space and adding streets, homes and driveways will only add to the runoff problems, he argued.

Tim Cross, a city engineer, said those storm water issues will be addressed at the final development plan stage. Developers are not required to have detailed storm water management plans prior to the zone change, he said.

Paula Calhoun, who lives on Runnymeade Court near the golf course, told the commission the manhole cover in her backyard overflows went it rains, sending toilet paper and feces into her yard. She can’t mow her lawn at times, she said.

“There have been 800 complaints of sanitary sewer overflows to the state since 2003,” Simpson said. “This isn’t a secret.”

Simpson read documents from state environmental officials that showed the city of Nicholasville had not updated its sewer facilities plan since 2002. Notes from an October 2018 meeting between state officials and the city show the city acknowledged it needed to expand its sewer treatment facilities by at least 30 percent because of the storm water overflows, he said.

“It’s been a problem for a decade,” Simpson said. “But no one has addressed these issues.”

City officials said they are working to address the sewer capacity issue.

“We are working out the sewer issues,” said Cross.

Calhoun said she and her husband have been complaining about the sewer overflows since they moved to Runnymeade in 2005. The prior owners also complained. City workers routinely come and clean up the overflow but nothing has been done to address the problem, she said.

Last week, though, she said workers were seen testing the pipes in front of her house.

The more than 150 people from the neighborhood who attended Monday night’s meeting will get an opportunity to voice their concerns and problems at the Oct. 28 meeting.

Bobby Gullette, an attorney for the planning commission, urged those who wanted to speak to return on Oct. 28. The zone change still has to be approved by the Nicholasville City Commission but the city commission does not have to hold a public hearing before voting on the zone change, Gullette said.

The fight over the fate of the Lone Oak property 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.