In a narrow 4-3 vote, the Franklin County Fiscal Court denied a controversial zoning change for the old Blanton-Crutcher Farm at Tuesday evening’s meeting.
The vote brought a close to a months-long debate over whether the property, located at 690 Duncan Road and owned by Winchester developer Ron Tierney of Tierney Storage, should be rezoned from agricultural to industrial.
Tierney purchased the 85-acre tract located near Interstate 64 at Versailles Road and Industrial Park #3 last summer. While a small portion of the tract is located in Woodford County, the majority of the property lies in Franklin County.
In February, after a five-hour public hearing, the Frankfort-Franklin County Planning Commission voted 5-2 to recommend the rezoning.
Since buying the land, Tierney has demolished an old farmhouse and was issued a notice of violation from the Division for Air Quality following an illegal burn on the property in April.
Numerous surrounding property owners and historic preservationists have been against the zoning change, while supporters believe the rezoning is vital for economic growth in the county.
During a first reading of the rezoning ordinance in April, Magistrate J.W. Blackburn made a motion for the court to have a public hearing before the second reading.
On June 19, the fiscal court established 16 findings of fact related to the seven-hour June 9 public hearing in which proponent and opponents voiced their concerns.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Blackburn, whose district includes the Duncan Road property, voted against the rezoning. He was joined by fellow magistrates Michael Mueller, Scotty Tracy and Marti Booth.
“It comes down to will a zone change approval have a negative effect on the surrounding property owners,” Tracy said. “Franklin County government’s professional engineer stated that he has obvious concerns about the traffic impact and flooding. That being said, I vote no.”
Magistrate Sherry Sebastian kicked off the voting with a yes.
“None of the comments made during this process have fallen on deaf ears,” she said, adding that her vote came down to one thing: that the property does meet the condition as industrial in the county’s future land use map.
Blackburn disagreed with Sebastian’s statutory argument saying that the map amendment “is in direct conflict with 70%” of the comprehensive development plan.
Magistrate Lambert Moore and Judge-Executive Huston Wells joined Sebastian by voting in favor of the zoning change.
The fiscal court had until July 13 to vote on the ordinance.
Susan Goddard, a neighboring property owner and co-director of the Duncan Road-Hilltop Meadows Neighborhood Association, has been among the most outspoken against the development in the community citing the environmental impact and potential health risks that might come with the development as well as how it would affect her property and the area.
“The members of our neighborhood association are extremely happy with tonight’s vote. We have had such overwhelming community support from such diverse and dedicated groups of citizens. This was a team effort," she told The State Journal and thanking both the newspaper and Cable 10 for its coverage of the issue.
"We are grateful to the Fiscal Court for allowing us the evidentiary hearing; and, we are so appreciative of our magistrate, J.W. Blackburn," she added. "
This proves that the tools are there for the public to use. This is what Democracy looks like. The voices for smart growth along our scenic byways were heard and scored a victory tonight!"
Writer Dalton Stokes contributed to this report.