Editor's note: This story was updated at 10:04 a.m. on Sept. 13 after it was discovered that half of it had been inadvertently deleted prior to its initial publishing.
The Frankfort/Franklin County Planning Commission has delayed a decision on a controversial change in the way bourbon warehouses are approved.
Just after Planning Commission Chairperson Russell Wright introduced the first of the two public hearings Thursday in front of a packed house at City Hall, Commissioner Paul Looney made a motion to table the items and send them to the zoning update committee, a subcommittee of the commission, pending the comprehensive plan update.
The motion passed 6-3.
The topic at hand was a continuation of public hearings relating to proposed text amendments that would allow the county and city to list bourbon barrel warehouses as a sub-category of farm product warehousing and storage, allowing for easier siting of warehouses by Buffalo Trace and other distilleries.
If the measure were passed, it would put bourbon warehouses under conditional use in agricultural (AG) zones.
"This is an issue that is really big and far-reaching and has a lot of consequences," Looney said after making the motion. "We have received dozens and dozens of correspondence on both sides of this issue, supporting and against it, and have not had a chance to fully vet that out.
"So we have gone through a public hearing where we got some of the issues on the table. There is still a lot to be gone through and we have closed the public hearing and don't have any more opportunity to bring any testimony back. I am really bothered by where we are and how we have let ourselves get here and I would like to give ourselves an opportunity for everyone's benefit."
Wright and commission members Tim Luscher and Keith Lee voted against tabling the matter.
The issue has been hotly contested between concerned citizens and Frankfort-based Buffalo Trace, which has proposed additional bourbon warehousing in Peaks Mill.
The decision was met with applause from opponents of Buffalo Trace's plans.
Chris Schimmoeller, president of environmental group Envision Franklin County, said the move to table the matter until after the Frankfort/Franklin County comprehensive plan is updated is the best move.
"This is a big win for the public's right to decide how we want the community to grow," she said in an email to The State Journal. "Compliments go to the Planning & Zoning Commission for making the right decision."
When asked for comment, Buffalo Trace Public Relations Manager Amy Preske said, "Buffalo Trace Distillery remains committed to expanding and growing here in our hometown. We are grateful for the strong support from members of the community, and we look forward to working with our elected leaders to move forward with our plans to invest in a bright future for Franklin County."
The commission then went on to other business.
Right before the commission was about to adjourn, Ed Logan, counsel for the planning commission asked for clarification on the earlier decision, noting if it stands, the commission will not pick the matter back up until comprehensive plan is completed sometime in mid to late 2023.
"It is my understanding that the motion was to table what we had tonight until after the comprehensive plan has been completed," Logan inquired. "Because if that is the case then we are tabling the effort for 12 to 14 months."
Looney said that it was not his intention to table the matter for that long.
"It was not my intention to wait two years," Looney said. "We are in the midst of a process that can help inform this, but not necessarily wait until the full completion of that.
The board then began to discuss what exactly the motion said and if it could be walked back.
Russell asked if they could reopen the the matter since the meeting had not been adjourned. Logan advised against that and said that the table could be un-tabled at a future meeting.
The discussion on the issue as well as how to proceed went on for an additional 45 minutes about the motion voted on earlier as well as whether or not bourbon qualified as an agricultural product based on statements rendered by the Kentucky Agricultural Commission.
"I don't think we should do any kind of a motion," Logan advised the commission. "I think [city and county] staff should decide whether they want to get an interpretation from each of the entities or not. I don't think we ought to be predetermining anything in regards to that."
The meeting adjourned with no indication of what the commission planned to do going forward.