Hickman Hill 2

850 Hickman Hill Road. (Austin Horn | The State Journal)

A controversial zoning change got another breath of life after a split vote among members of the Franklin County Fiscal Court last Thursday.

A vote to affirm a denial of a zone change at 850 Hickman Hill Road from RA (Rural Residential, Single Family Large Lot) to AG (Agricultural District) by the Frankfort-Franklin County Planning Commission, which was an 8-1 decision, failed in fiscal court in a 3-3 vote. 

Near the end of the court’s 5-hour and 15-minute-long discussion, attorneys for both the applicant and a group opposing the zone change briefly presented their requests — one for the court to approve the commission’s denial of the change while the attorney for the applicant asked for a new hearing on the change.

Neither of those requests were fully met, as the court is awaiting the creation of a transcript from the previous times it went before the planning commission. Franklin County Planning & Zoning Director Robert Hewitt said that the transcript would likely be ready by mid-November.

At a previous planning commission meeting in which nearby residents spoke, several people raised concerns about the ongoing work there and what could be done in the future under the broad umbrella of agricultural use zoning. 

KT Holdings, a company owned by Kenneth Tracy of Tracy Sand and Gravel is the applicant for the zone change. The staff report submitted to the planning commission was done by an employee of the Bluegrass Area Development District (BGADD) due to a conflict of interest — Kenneth is Magistrate Scotty Tracy’s brother.

An attorney for Kenneth Tracy told The State Journal late this summer that the intent with the property would be to keep growing crops on it as well as using it for “various things that are permitted under the AG zoning.”

Several uses are permitted by AG zoning, though many require a conditional use permit.

Uses that don’t require a conditional use permit include raw materials and storage for “farm products,” as well as “farm and garden supply stores.”

Billings has argued, however, that the main consideration in approval of such decisions is whether the zone change is in agreement with the comprehensive master plan, not what the future use would be.

Magistrate Sherry Sebastian questioned the conclusions of the planning commission given recent history of the commission's decisions.

“We’ve had several zone change requests going from rural residential to (agriculture), and matter of fact we just had one,” Sebastian said. “Now it’s turned upside down… I don’t see a lot of distinction in material that we’ve previously read and material that we’re reading tonight that create the ruling that we have.”

Magistrate J.W. Blackburn said he somewhat agreed with Sebastian, but that he received an overwhelming amount of displeasure with the proposed zoning change.

“I think it’s strange that almost every single rural to agricultural zoning change has been passed by the planning and zoning board, but this is in the heart of my district and I’ve had overwhelming public outcry,” Blackburn said. “I represent the people of my district and I’m going to vote the way they ask me to.”

Other business

The court approved entering into a contract with Johanson Group to “perform a complete analysis of all Franklin County Government positions, classification, compensation structure, and a base pay to determine if the current employee pay averages are competitive.”

Such an analysis would cost no more than $28,000, according to county documents.

Last summer, The State Journal completed a series detailing the salaries of most local public employees, including those who work for the county. The measure passed 6-1 with only Magistrate Lambert Moore voting “no.”

After lengthy discussion, and a tweak to the terms, the court also approved a resolution in support of the Frankfort Plant Board’s application for funds to provide broadband to unserved and underserved populations in Franklin County.

Pending FPB’s successful collection application for state funding, the county would chip in $3 million for the project from its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds while matching grant funds would total $8 million.

A presentation from FPB states that it would expect project completion by 2026.

A majority of the court appeared to be in support of amending Franklin County’s planned contribution of ARPA funds from a two-year period ($1 million this year, $2 million next year) to a three-year period ($1 million each year).

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