Permit is denied for RV park during World Equestrian Games

A city board denied a permit on Friday to allow a temporary campsite for 444 recreational vehicles near the Kentucky Horse Park during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games this fall.

Daniel Sexton, owner of Spindletop Mobile Home Park, was seeking a conditional use permit from Lexington's Board of Adjustment for his 90-acre farm in northern Fayette County between old Iron Works Pike and Lisle Road.

Opponents had voiced concern that the soil would be so compacted that it could not be restored for agricultural use.

The city's planning staff recommended approval, but with 13 conditions — including that a 20-foot-wide gravel road would be built capable of carrying 94,000-pound fire truck if necessary. The campground would be used no later than November 1. Richard Murphy, attorney for Sexton, said the gravel road would be removed and the farm land restored by December 31.

Murphy said his client would post a $15,000 performance bond to make sure the farm would be cleaned up and the soil restored. He later raised that amount to $30,000. Sexton downplayed the impact of installing and removing the gravel road on the soil, saying only 6 inches of soil would have to be excavated. He indicated soil compaction would not be a significant problem.

But opponent Jeanne Owen, recently retired general manager of Cobra Farm, who said she had "extensive experience" with farm construction, said traffic from RVs, cars, garbage trucks and tankers hauling away sewer would compact soil 4 to 5 feet deep. She told the board of adjustment it needed to hear from an independent soil expert from the University of Kentucky about damage to soil and the difficulty of restoration.

"Fifteen thousand dollars wouldn't remove one iota of the gravel" or begin to restore the damaged soil, she said. "I think it would be every bit of $1 million to restore that farm."

Thoroughbred farm owner Don Robinson, whose family has owned a farm on Military Pike for 60 years, said, "The idea you can restore two miles of gravel road to usable farm land for $15,000 or $30,000 is ludicrous." Robinson is also president of Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, one of several farm groups that opposed the campground.

Board of adjustment member Barry Stumbo asked what recourse the city would have if restoration were not complete by December and $30,000 was not enough to finish the job. Murphy said city engineer Ron St. Clair's "sole job" is to set bonds on development projects. "We will post a minimum $30,000. If Mr. St. Clair determines the cost would be more, we would post the additional amount," Murphy said.

Knox van Nagell, executive director of Fayette Alliance, an agricultural land advocacy group, expressed concern about how sewage would be removed from the campsite.

Murphy said two 21,000 gallon holding tanks would be on site, manned around the clock by licensed operators. They would be removed by a private sanitation company to the Georgetown sewer plant. But with two, one would always be on site while the other was being emptied, he said.

Most RVs have a 100-gallon water tank. so a 21,000 gallon tank could only hold the waste of 210 RVs at a time, "less than half the number projected for the campsite," van Nagell said.

Luke Mathias of the Fayette County Health Department said that before construction of the campground could begin, the applicant would need approval of the health department. He advised Sexton "not to even advertise" his campground until the health department approves the application.

In urging approval, Murphy said his client had met board of adjustment conditions, including agreeing to install a fire hydrant, daily trash collection, fire department approval, 24-hour security, and having Kentucky Utilities erect temporary poles to provide electricity so the RVs would not use generators.

He asked why Spy Coast Farm on Iron Works Pike where cars and buses will park, did not have to meet demands imposed on his client, including soil restoration.

Bill Sallee, planning services manager, said the horse park contracted with the farm directly, so Spy Coast was considered state property, not local.

Board of adjustment member Louis Stout made the motion to deny the conditional use permit. Voting in favor of Stout's motion were Stumbo and Jim Griggs. Chairman Peter Brown voted no. Members Kathryn Moore and Noel White were absent.

Murphy said that he had not had time to talk with his client "about where we go from here." Sexton's recourse is to appeal the decision to Fayette Circuit Court.