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One developer gets the nod, another doesn’t

A developer who has been trying to get a zoning change from A-R (agriculture-residential) to PUD (Planned Unit Development) got approval last week while another developer with the same request was denied.
The Harrison County Advisory Plan Commission Thursday night approved Robert Walker’s request to rezone 13.6 acres on the southeast corner of S.R. 135 and Watson Road.
Walker, of R.W. Properties LLC, first made the request in April. The plan commission had forwarded the request to the Harrison County Board of Commissioners with an unfavorable recommendation, but the county commissioners sked Walker to try to develop an alternative plan that the plan commission might approve.
Two revised plans, which called for six lots using a short access road from Watson Road, were presented at the May plan commission meeting, but a decision was tabled until June. At that meeting, Walker requested a decision be postponed until this month in hopes that more than five of the nine plan commission members would be present.
Walker got his wish: seven members were at last week’s meeting.
While making a motion to approve the zoning change, Carl (Buck) Mathes asked, ‘Didn’t we do the same thing’ for another parcel of land that had been part of the original piece of property along with Walker’s?
Harrison County planner Eric Wise said that was true, that Steve Aulbach was given a zoning change from A-R to PUD in January for two tracts totaling about 130 acres on the east side of S.R. 135 between Watson and Squire Boone roads.
‘If we’re going to do it for (Aulbach), I can’t see why we can’t do it for (Walker), too,’ Mathes said.
Because Walker was asking for a PUD, Mathes said it would allow the plan commission to work with Walker to develop ‘a good plan’ for both Walker and the county.
Jim Klinstiver seconded Mathes’ motion, although he said he thinks that corner is better suited for commercial development.
The motion passed 5-2, with plan commission chair Larry Ott and Victor McCauley voting against it without comment.
Applicant Mike Sphire wasn’t as lucky with his request. The plan commission unanimously decided against rezoning about 78 acres on the southwest corner of Old Dam 43 and Rehoboth roads from A-R to PUD. The vote was 6-0 (McCauley had excused himself due to a possible conflict of interest).
Attorney John Kraft, representing Sphire, who was unable to attend, said, ‘We’re here for the first phase of this … to give you an idea of the possibilities.’
If the request was approved, Sphire had indicated plans to develop the property into a subdivision with a maximum of 50 lots, with its access point, which would remain a private road, off Old Dam 43 Road.
‘Before they could do a subdivision, they would have to come with a detailed drawing,’ Wise reminded the plan commission. ‘Now’s the time to say what you would like to see (if the request is approved) when they come back.’
But the board seemed hung up on the conceptual drawing Sphire had submitted along with his request.
J.R. Eckart, also a county commissioner, said the road would ‘be looked on unfavorably’ because it was not being proposed to county standards. He also said the plan was not representative of ‘smart growth.’
‘It costs everybody in Harrison County in the pocketbook to provide services by putting a 50-lot subdivision in a rural area,’ Eckart said.
Kraft questioned his comments.
‘If it’s not smart growth now, why was it’ in March when the plan commission OK’d rezoning the property from A-R to PUD as requested by Countrytyme Kentucky LLC? he asked.
Countrytyme had proposed to develop 12 lots, ranging in size from 4.3 acres to 11.71 acres, but later canceled its plans because of stipulations requiring Countrytyme to ensure adequate sight distance at the intersection of Old Dam 43 and Rehoboth.
Eckart said 12 lots would help keep the rural character of the area. ‘The change in density is reason enough to change my opinion about the PUD,’ he said.
Neighbors made oft-heard comments about the possibility of increased traffic, noise and pollution, potential for decreasing property values, and how they ‘moved from Louisville 15 years ago to get away from this,’ as was the case for William Keaton.
‘I realize change is imminent,’ Keaton said, ‘but this change is not good for our community.’
Another critic took a different approach.
‘I used to run up and down that road (while in high school),’ said 25-year-old Chad Schweitzer. ‘I can’t stand the thought of seeing it developed.’
Schweitzer, who became emotional while addressing the commission, said Countrytyme’s proposed development didn’t bother him, but ’40 to 50 houses is a little too much for me.’
Former county commissioner Terry Miller, who was on the plan commission while in office, spoke in favor of the request.
‘All the neighbors will probably be mad at me, but I recommend approval,’ he said.
Miller said William Curry, who owns the property, and his brother are ‘getting to the age where they need to get rid of their property. You can’t begrudge them for getting top dollar for their property.’
He added that if the Curry brothers tried to sell their property as farm land, ‘they wouldn’t get anything out of it.’
Klinstiver, who also lives in the vicinity, said the ‘fork in the road was when we put the (South Central) school in there in the mid-50s.
‘South Harrison Park is within walking distance of each of these lots,’ he said.
Klinstiver said the number of lots should be determined by the health department, not the plan commission. He said the road should be built to county specs.
He said Curry’s property is ‘good pasture but not prime’ farm land.
‘I’m not crazy about seeing 40 to 50 houses in there,’ he said, but he said the country operates on the ‘free enterprise’ system.
Ott, who voted against the zoning change earlier in the year, said he was still opposed to it.
‘I want to see this type of development closer to infrastructure,’ he said.
Mathes agreed. ‘Even though I was for (changing the zoning) before, it’s too much in the wrong spot,’ he said. ‘The price range of the homes would not be beneficial to our county.’
He made the motion, seconded by Charles Crawford, to deny the request.
Both requests will be heard by the Harrison County Board of Commissioners at their July 21 meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m.