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Church left out of loop, opposes rezoning for light industrial growth

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By Thomas Barr

 BARDSTOWN JUNCTION - Since 1972, this church has stood on property at the corner of Highway 61 and Beech Grove Road.

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Established in 1917, Bardstown Junction Baptist Church has seen its membership and attendance grow over the years. Church leaders were looking to once again expand the current facilities.

However, a proposed light industrial development that would surround their property, was introduced for a zoning change Tuesday before Bullitt Fiscal Court.

A final reading and vote could come at the Tuesday, Aug. 2, meeting at 9:30 a.m.

A large contingency of church members listened to the proposal by Zoneton Developers, Debra Shaw and the estate of Oma Lee Shaw, which totaled 137 acres. The request was to rezone the property to IL Light Industrial to allow for several distribution warehouses.

Attorney John Wooldridge said there is no project signed and sealed for the property. And under the confidentiality pledge, the project could not be revealed until it becomes reality.

Before anything happens, Wooldridge said the rezoning must be approved. He looked for 1-2 buildings on the property with the possibility for expansion.

The area has seen much growth and change over the years, according to Wooldridge, and this project would be just minutes away from Interstate 65 with the main entrance directly across from Highway 245.

Being along the CSX railroad, Wooldridge said it isn’t suitable for residential development.

Phil Charmoli was contracted by Red Rock Corp. to find possible locations in Bullitt and surrounding counties that might be developed into to light industrial property.

He acknowledged the three Bullitt County sites are in contention with others in the region.

Charmoli predicted 1,750 jobs could be created with an investment of $35-$40 million.

Attorney Bruce Simpson, a Lexington lawyer representing the church, said the members were not notified of the planning commission hearing. The notice sent to the church was returned to planning officials and no one attended the June 14 hearing.

With only a few days to prepare, Simpson said his client is concerned with a number of issues. 

First, with over 73 percent of the adjoining property to be covered with buildings or pavement, Simpson said the water must go somewhere and he feared it would be on the church’s property.

Traffic flow was another concern, according to Simpson.

The development group proposing to purchase the land did not produce any studies for drainage or traffic, which Simpson said should legally be part of the zoning decision.

Another concern is the 40-foot tall buildings which will be close to the church’s property line.

“This church is in favor of Bullitt County collecting 1,000-2,000 new jobs,” said Simpson. “But there are two other sites already zoned.”

The unnamed company has two sites off Cedar Grove Road that are already zoned light industrial and could handle the development without any further rezoning, said Simpson.

Simpson said legally the church didn’t have the opportunity to speak to the planning commission before it made its favorable recommendation.

“They lost that opportunity because they couldn’t be heard,” said Simpson. “It is a procedural defect. We believe it is fatal.”

While Simpson outlined the legal reasons why the rezoning should be denied, the Rev. Mark Harrison gave a more emotional plea to the court members.

“We object,” Harrison said of the rezoning. “This is wrong. If this was your church, how would you feel?”

Harrison said no one spoke with the church and no one tried to notify the church prior to the planning hearing.

“We were here first. There’s two other sites,” said Harrison. “Don’t you have an obligation to the people who worship.”

Harrison said the congregation is scared about a “two million square foot giant” that could be built next to the church.

“To zone this light industrial is irresponsible and negligent,” said Harrison. “This church has done so much for this community.”

Harrison said his members are always active during elections and he sent that reminder to magistrates.

“I’m scared and I’m concerned,” said Harrison. “And we have an attorney.”

Harrison said the church would be open to a reasonable offer to sell its existing property and relocate. A price of $5 million has been thrown out on the table.

Gary McGruder, a partner in Zoneton Developers, said that price was not reasonable.

Pastors Rusty Watson and Randy Pace both gave their support to the church in its efforts to fend off the industrial development.

John Barker Jr., an owner of Red Rock Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., said he was sorry for the trouble the church officials had been going through.

Three years ago, the company came to Louisville and decided it needed to be here.

Charmoli was asked to locate all suitable light industrial sites in the region.

“This is a good place,” said Barker. “We’re a good company that will do the right thing.”

He understood the passion by church members but he also knew that the development would be good for the community.

“Whatever we do...we will follow all the rules,” said Barker.

Magistrate John Bradshaw said he couldn’t understand how the church was left out of the notification circle. He said once the original letter was returned, the notice could have been hand-delivered to the church and its members.

“There’s no excuse for them not to be notified,” said Bradshaw.

County Judge Melanie Roberts had hoped the two parties could have gotten together previously and introduced a compromise.