Editor's note: In a Wednesday news story about Monday night's Frankfort City Commission meeting, The State Journal inaccurately reported the actions of the city's Architectural Review Board on plans for the property at 300 Washington St. This article sets the record straight.
Frankfort Architectural Review Board members, after hearing public comments at a meeting last week, approved the renovation of historic 300 Washington St. into a boutique hotel and restaurant.
According to the Franklin County Trust for Historic Preservation, the original Federal-style house was built in 1815 by Dr. Preston Brown, brother of John Brown, one of Kentucky’s first U.S. senators.
Years later, the house was purchased by E.H. Taylor Jr., of Old Taylor Distillery fame. He occupied the home until about 1874. During his time in Frankfort, Taylor opened distilleries that would become the forerunners of today’s Buffalo Trace and Castle & Key distilleries.
During the nearly four-hour meeting last week, some citizens spoke in support of the project and some expressed concerns about the proposed renovations, which include the addition of outdoor landscaping, a patio and an outdoor walk-in cooler. The project required several conditional use permits, all of which were approved unanimously.
The main point of contention was the addition of a rooftop lounge where guests could chat and enjoy drinks. Some neighbors were concerned that guests on the rooftop might make noise and look down into their windows.
In approving the conditional use permits, the ARB blessed all aspects of the project except for the rooftop lounge, which the applicant agreed to withdraw and revisit.
“We listened to the testimony, and public comments were generally fairly favorable except for the rooftop garden,” said ARB Chair Patti Cross. “When the applicants saw that might be an issue, they pulled that portion from the table that night.”
The historic house, which has gone through several owners over the years, was most recently purchased by Massachusetts-based Robert Taylor Hay and his wife, Kathleen. The Hay family are descendants of E.H. Taylor Jr.
Robert Taylor and Kathleen Hay fell in love with the property on a 2017 visit to Frankfort.
“We were taken by Frankfort and how it’s coming into its own,” Kathleen Hay told The State Journal earlier this year.
The Hays presented their plans for the boutique hotel and restaurant to the ARB last week.
Their attorney, Charles Jones of Frankfort, confirmed Cross’ assessment of the meeting.
“I think there were certainly some justified questions and concerns from the joint property owners, the neighbors and the board members themselves,” Jones said. “But between us and staff, it was addressed to their satisfaction.”
At Monday's Frankfort City Commission meeting, Commissioner John Sower voted against the reappointment of Ann Wright to the ARB, citing in part the ARB's handling of the Washington Street project.
Cross said that Sower was misinformed.
“I don’t think anybody in that room was really going to reject the little boutique hotel,” Cross said. “Our rulings are based on the facts, the testimonies we have and how they mesh up with the regulations.”
Jones concurred. “I don’t think there was ever any precursor that they were out to turn it down,” he said, noting that the proposed renovation has received letters of support from several adjacent property owners.
Jones said the Hays may revisit the rooftop lounge issue at a future ARB meeting, but for now they are excited about getting started on the project.
“My clients are thrilled to death on a couple fronts,” Jones said. “One, to be joining the Frankfort community, and two, to be rejuvenating and revitalizing a very important structure.”
When contacted for comment Wednesday, Wright told The State Journal in an email, “I am a member of the Architectural Review Board and our Chair, Mrs. Cross, is empowered to speak for the Board.”
Cross said of the ARB: “We have a reputation in the community that perhaps we turn everything down. But we generally approve, sometimes with conditions.”
In his comments before voting Monday night to oppose Wright's reappointment, Sower said he wanted the ARB to become more moderate in reviewing projects beneficial to the downtown business district. Commissioner Katrisha Waldridge joined Sower in opposing the reappointment.
Mayor Bill May, who nominated Wright for reappointment, and Commissioners Scott Tippett and Eric Whisman voted to reappoint Wright.
Sower and Whisman opposed Cross' reappointment to a separate body, the Frankfort-Franklin County Planning Commission. May, Tippett and Waldridge supported her reappointment.