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MOUNT WASHINGTON " If one Mount Washington city councilman gets his wishes, the majority of residential properties along Highway 44 within the corporate limits will soon be zoned B-1 Highway Commercial.
Councilman Dennis Griffin is interested in rezoning all of the residential property to commercial within the Highway 44 corridor from city limit to city limit within 350 feet of the highway.
The city would pay the rezoning application fee to the Bullitt County Joint Planning Commission and, if passed, the rezoning would not affect property in that area already zoned commercial. The city would also be in charge of notifying all involved and adjoining property owners of the proposal.
Griffin had city attorney Norman Lemme draw up a resolution that outlined the idea and the council had a first reading at Monday’s meeting. However, several council members had unanswered questions and Griffin decided revisions needed to be made before moving forward with the idea.
“Down the road 44 will be the next Bardstown Road,” Griffin said. “We’ve got to allow for some commercial growth.”
He added that several residents had approached him about wanting their properties along Highway 44 rezoned.
But the introduction of the idea was new to many of the council members.
“I’m concerned about the residents in this corridor,” councilman Barry Armstrong said.
In the original resolution, property owners were not give the option to opt out of the rezoning.
If the Planning Commission favorably recommended the request and the Mount Washington council voted to rezone the property, residents could continue living in their homes.
However, Lemme pointed out that if more than 50 percent of a home is destroyed in a natural disaster, residents would not be allowed to rebuild because rebuilding a home on a commercially zoned property would be a non-conforming use. Residents would also not be allowed to make additions to their homes, Lemme said.
Local developer Frank Cornell said he was very concerned about the idea because of the large number of homes it would effect, including several located in his developments.
“It’d be a real problem to someone who’s gone through a long process to get something started and then stop it,” Cornell said of uncompleted subdivisions that are located within 350 feet of Highway 44. He said the proposal would affect the third and even forth row of homes in some of his developments.
Developer Kenny Stout agreed with Cornell and said that although he’s not opposed to commercial zoning, he thought it was an incorrect way for the council to promote commercial growth. He said many subdivisions along Highway 44 have binding elements in their zoning agreements that state their properties cannot be zoned commercial.
“I think it would be very difficult (to reverse those) unless every homeowner agrees in the subdivision,” Stout said.
Griffin said he didn’t want property owner’s rights to be revoked and after discussion, agreed that the resolution should be revised. Griffin felt property owners should be notified of the idea and, if the resolution passes, they should be given the option to opt out.
Councilman Gary Lawson agreed property owners needed to be properly notified.
“I think everybody needs to know all their options,” he said.
Stout also disagreed that the city would foot the bill for a rezoning request that developers in the area have been paying themselves for years. “Everybody has paid these fees so it shouldn’t be an issue,” Stout said.
Planning Commission Attorney Rob Flaherty said that if the council moved forward with the idea, it would basically go through the same application process that an individual property owner would go through when requesting a rezoning.
Planning Commission Administrator Roanne Hammond said she couldn’t determine the cost of the application because it depended upon how much acreage was involved.
Flaherty and Hammond said it was rare for a city to propose a request such as the one Mount Washington’s council is discussing.
“The final decision . . . is going to be made by the city. They determine if there are certain parcels they want to exclude and include based upon the facts and information presented them. They are going to have to make findings of fact to justify their decision, just like with any other rezoning case,” Flaherty said.
He added that it would probably be tough to determine exactly which property owners wanted to be excluded.
“There is a process by which that could potentially happen. If they are filing one blanket application and then pulling out parcels here or there, it could make it a bit complicated,” he said.
There are lots of unanswered questions about the proposal and Mayor Joetta Calhoun said she wanted to give residents ample time to voice their opinions about the idea.
Armstrong said he wanted to ensure that property owners were heard. He believed that business owners and residential property owners along Highway 44 had a positive relationship already.
“It’s a pretty peaceful existence in my mind . . . maybe we’re opening up a keg of nails here we don’t need to open up,” he said.
Griffin said he would seek out more public opinion before any definite decisions were made.