The Frankfort-Franklin County Board of Zoning Adjustment OK'd two new kayak and canoe put-ins where North and South Elkhorn Creek converge at its meeting Tuesday.
Before the board were two conditional-use permits for property owners already familiar to both public and private spheres in Franklin County.
Nathan Depenbrock, who along with his wife, Allison, owns the popular Canoe Kentucky franchise, got the OK to launch vessels on a property they own through their company on 3866 Georgetown Road.
Right next door on 3894 Georgetown Road, Andrea Wilson Mueller — who co-owns the landscaping company Inside Out Design with her husband Michael, who is also a county magistrate — also got approval for a put-in and launch site via their company Wilson-Mueller Properties.
The properties used to be the site of Buck Run Baptist Church, and were one and the same as recently as 2019. They were split by the time the Depenbrocks bought their roughly 0.5-acre lot for $110,000 in March 2020. The Muellers bought their 1.7-acre lot for $145,000 in June of that same year.
Earlier this year, Beam Suntory — which operates the Jim Beam Old Grand Dad plant — removed a dangerous low-head dam on Elkhorn Creek downstream from the put-in sites. Kayak and canoe advocates had long sought its removal due to the safety hazard it presented.
The indoor component and parking space for the 3894 Georgetown Road property is significantly larger than the Canoe Kentucky property.
Both Nathan Depenbrock and Mueller spoke to the board on Tuesday in favor of their projects. The Canoe Kentucky permit was recommended by Franklin County planning staff while a planner with the Blue Grass Area Development District (BGADD) was contracted to consult on the Muellers’ project due to Michael Mueller’s post with the county.
“We were very closely involved with local leaders... and were very instrumental in assisting in getting the Jim Beam dam removed this year,” Depenbrock said. “And that created a much stronger element of safety on this stretch of the creek.
Depenbrock added that Canoe Kentucky’s intent was to launch inflatable rafts, as opposed to hardshell vessels, on that stretch of the creek because they believe it is the most safe way to proceed down that stretch of the creek.
Mueller also said that safety played a role in their need for the launch site use, as the only site to put in a vessel sits diagonally across a bridge and a roadway from the building.
“They’re having to cross the street after they park, and there’s really not even a safe way to cross the street,” Mueller said. “There aren’t even sidewalks and the sidewalk across the bridge is pretty dilapidated.”
In an email read by Franklin County Planning Supervisor Ben Judah, Mueller said that she was fine with Canoe Kentucky’s launch site adjacent to theirs, but pointed out that they would need to create their own driveway.
According to the Franklin County Property Value Administrator’s website, both entrances to the former church site appear to belong to the Muellers’ parcel.
The Muellers’ project, which has a Facebook page called Ama on the Creek, has high hopes for the former church space. A recent post on the page said that they need sewer to expand offerings at its over 13,000-square-foot building.
“We have been working to get sewers in the Forks (of Elkhorn area) because most or all of the septic in this area is antiquated and ultimately, leaching into the creek,” the Facebook post read. “We are hoping the county will be responsive as many grant monies are available at this time for infrastructure projects.”
Currently, the city and county are working towards an extension of city sewer access to the opposite side of the county along U.S. 127. Farmdale Sanitation District, which has been served by a notoriously faulty package plant and septic system for years, would be the primary beneficiary of that extension.