Zoning still stalled for businesses next to MW theaters

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By Alex Wimsatt

 MOUNT WASHINGTON - An ordinance to rezone nearly 10 acres of property under development at the corner of Armstrong Lane and Highway 44 was again stalled during Monday’s regular meeting of the Mount Washington City Council. 

The council held a public hearing to discuss the ordinance, which would rezone the property sitting in front of the Keystone Cinema property currently under construction, from B-1 Highway Business to B-2 Central Business. 

Few showed up for the hearing and no public comments were made, however, city officials and the property owner, Cecilia developer Mike Morgan of MRDJ, LLC, got a chance to discuss an issue that has caused some confusion. 

Morgan said his plan is to subdivide the property into lots to be developed for retail space, restaurants, office space, a shopping center and perhaps a gas station/convenience store; however, there appears to be uncertainty as to whether a gas station/convenience store would be permitted under B-2 zoning. 

Planning and zoning regulations exclude service stations from B-2 zoning, but Morgan argues that what he’s proposing is not a service station at all, but rather retail business that sells gas, comparable to Circle K.  

City attorney Norman Lemme said his understanding is that could be considered a service station, however he suggested the definition could be up for interpretation. 

Given all the confusion, Lemme said the city wanted to hold the public hearing to make sure everyone was on the same page before any action was taken. 

“We didn’t want to put you in a trick bag,” said city attorney Norman Lemme. 

With that, Lemme advised Morgan speak with planning and zoning to find out exactly what a service station is and if a gas station/convenience store could be included in B-2. 

Morgan said he thoroughly read planning and zoning’s requirements for B-2 businesses and he was under the impression that gas stations/service stations were not excluded. 

“I thought it was self explanatory,” Morgan said. 

After the council meeting, Morgan did some cursory research online and found that the types of gas stations/convenience stores he’s interested in attracting, such as Circle K, Speedway and Thornton’s, all consistently identify themselves as convenience stores.

“In no place do they use the term service station,” he said.  

Morgan said he doesn’t believe there should be any problem putting a convenience store on a B-2 lot. 

Part of the reason Morgan requested the zoning change was to offer prospective businesses more flexibility with set backs and parking, but also to restrict the types of businesses the development attracts.

“We want it to be something that’s going to be appealing not only to the businesses but to the public,” Morgan said. “We don’t want any eyesores down the road.” 

While B-2 is less restrictive on structure heights, setbacks and parking, it does limit the types of business that can operate on B-2 properties. 

Morgan said there are no businesses committed to the property as of yet and the hold up shouldn’t jeopardizing any developments, but he said everything needs to be sorted out before anyone signs on the dotted line. 

Bullitt County Planning and Zoning administrator Roanne Hammond said that before planning and zoning makes any determination as to the definition of a service station she would have to speak with Morgan to better understand his plans. 

According to planning and zoning regulation, B-2 Central Business includes, “All types of retail sales and services excluding automobile repair garages, service stations, drive-in theaters, drive-in restaurants, and bait shops...”

There’s no mention of gas stations or convenience stores, only service stations, and as for how planning and zoning regulations define a service station, that’s unclear because B-2 regulations, which were adopted in 1987, include no precise definitions. 

“It’s not spelled out in the regulations,” Hammond said. “Years ago they were called service stations because they did service repairs.” 

Hammond said she would have to research how some of the gas stations/ convenience stores in Bullitt County are zoned to get a better idea of whether or not a B-2 lot could foster such businesses. 

“I would really have to look into this a little more,” Hammond said.

Bullitt County Planning and Zoning issued a favorable recommendation of the zoning change on June 9 and the city entertained first reading of the ordinance to adopt the recommendation on July 25. 

Second reading and a vote was expected on the ordinance Aug. 8, but the council opted instead to hold the public hearing. 

It appears that until the parties involved have clearly defined the term service station a vote will not be taken. 

The council has 90 days from the date of the planning and zoning commission’s recommendation to take action, which means the council must make a decision by next month or planning and zoning’s recommendation becomes effective. 

A representative of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet was expected to be on hand for the public hearing to answer questions regarding the intersection improvement project at 44, Armstrong and Fisher Lanes. No one from KYTC showed and no explanation was given.