Residents against new apartments near homes

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 PIONEER VILLAGE – They appeared a month ago and they returned on Tuesday.

Residents living around a proposed apartment complex on John Harper Highway voiced their concerns and their opposition to the Pioneer Village City Council during a public hearing in July.

Countryside Enterprises is seeking to rezone just over eight acres from IG General Industrial to R-3 Residential.

The plan would be to construct a maximum of 68 apartment units on the property.

Attorney Eric Farris, representing the applicant, said the community has a need for more apartment units, especially with the number of homeowners who are seeking residences but cannot secure financing.

Recently, Farris said another tract of property was rezoned to R-3 for apartments. Plus, he said the residential zoning would be more compatible with the area than the current general industrial zoning.

In the plans there would be a two-story limit on the height of the units. Each building would have a maximum of four units.

To protect the surrounding residents in Hebron Woods, Farris said the owner has agreed to install an earthen berm, measuring four foot tall and four foot wide. On top of the berm would be six-foot spruce trees which have to be maintained.

The structures would be all-brick.

While limited on what limits can be placed on those who live in the dwellings, Farris said the monthly rental of $600-$700 a month would not facilitate low-income or government-assistance programs.

Unlike a condo or patio home, Farris said the Walser family would maintain ownership, which includes management and maintenance responsibilities.

Councilmember Peggy Druin inquired about the lack of commercial development on the north side of the highway.

Farris said that the market is not suitable for commercial development at this time. But the property is still being marketed.

Councilman Gary Wilson was worried about the sewer situation in the area.

The plant, formerly owned by the Walsers, is now under the care of the Bullitt County Sanitation District.

Farris said that when building permits would be sought, none would be given if proper sewer services were not available. He did not know of any problem of having access to the treatment plant.

Suzi Walser said she knows there is still capacity in the plant.

Druin was also concerned about having at least another 120 cars trying to gain access to the John Harper Highway.

Farris said that plans are to continue the widening project on Highway 61, which could help the situation. He also said John Harper Highway was built to handle the traffic load.

The room was full of interested residents from the surrounding area.

David Shines, who served as a spokesman for most of the Hebron Woods residents, said that there were flaws in the request.

Not that residents were opposed to growth and development, Shines said the concern was that apartments would be sitting next to a residential community.

Listing several factors, Shines said the request did not meet the goals and objectives of several sections in the county’s comprehensive land-use plan.

He added that there are parts of the county’s criteria for development which are not included in the applicant’s proposal.

Shines said there should be some consideration to the proper design of the complex. Dumpsters should not be allowed in the front of the residences. And there is no provision on the drawings for a playground area.

Building next to a road with a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit is also dangerous, said Shines.

“What is the quality of life for the 68 families?” questioned Shines.

In the revisions of the comprehensive plan, which are currently being done, Shines said quality of life is mentioned in the vision statement.

He questioned whether the addition of 68 units on a sewer plant that currently has issues would be advisable.

The resident presented a sample of water taken from the stream near the outflow pipe of the treatment plant. A lab reported that contamination readings were four times the state allowed levels on July 17.

Taking into consideration various issues, Shines said the council should not vote to rezone the property.

Lloyd Harris, the only other resident to speak, lives across the street in the Spring Meadow patio homes. His concern is that going by the track record of the applicant to deal with issues in his community, there was little confidence that they would follow through on promises regarding the proposed complex.

A petition with over 200 names was presented to the council.

Farris said the planning commission found that the request did meet the comprehensive plan and that issues, such as green space and the playground, would be addressed during later approvals.

He said that his client would do a good job, like it has in the past, with the development. If not, he said it would only hurt themselves as no one would want to live there.

With no chain of custody or no knowledge about the details of the stream water sample, Farris said he didn’t know why that it was even relevant.

There has been no notice from the sanitation district that it would not accept the 68 additional customers.

During the regular portion of the council meeting, town board member Darlene Herps again brought up the sewer issue.

City attorney Mark Edison said most of the north-end treatment plants have some issues. The sanitation district has acquired all but one.

Edison said the problem is that to truly fix all the issues, you must have money. Without grants, that would be higher rates, which is not been favored.

Wilson inquired whether writing a letter voicing the city’s concerns would help.

Mayor Gary Hatcher said the northern cities work together on the storm water program and it might be a situation where a single letter from all five city leaders might help. The group is slated to meet at the beginning of August and the issue could be discussed.

The second reading and vote on the rezoning request is slated for Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. at Becknell Hall. The public is invited.

Typically, the council does not accept any other testimony during its second reading. However, the city has the option to alter that practice.