It was a long journey for the Tabernacle Baptist Church and its pastor Lonnie Moore, but their perseverance over the past year and all the “hoops they had to jump through” paid off Tuesday night.
At its monthly meeting, the Jessamine County-City of Wilmore Joint Planning Commission approved the plans for a new atrium and the use of a softball field.
On 12 tracts of land, the church has been located at 2420 Lexington Road (U.S. 27) and Vince Road for more than 21 years.
For over a year now, the church has been going through the process with the planning commission and was even rezoned from a mostly A-1 and partly B-1 to a B-3 after a vote that spilt the commissioners last November.
Moore, along with a handful of his parishioners, were at the planning-commission meeting Tuesday to testify to the church’s need for the atrium and compel the commissioners for approval.
In October, Chris Horne of Horne Engineering represented the church and told commissioners that the change would comply with the county’s comprehensive plan, which designates the land as future commercial.
However, the concern this Tuesday was over the expansion’s traffic impact on Vince Road.
“The comprehensive plan — we have to look at the big picture and the increase; every decision we make we also have to keep in mind the overall goal, so it benefits all the residents of the Jessamine County,” commission member Eric Zabilka said.
Commissioners pondered requiring the church to expand the road before approving its project, but Moore said he felt even if the church “doubled in size, Vince Road would be able to accommodate — not to mention there is the U.S. 27 entrance.”
“We believe it is unfair for us to be financially responsible for the expansion of Vince Road,” Moore said.
The church had legal representation from attorney Bobby Gullette at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Gullette said he believed that Horne, planning-commission attorney Bruce Smith and the adjacent property owner had reached a solution that satisfied all requirements and concerns.
Gullette also provided a letter from the owner of the adjacent property, Jessamine Court Fiscal Court Magistrate George Dean.
Dean, who was present Tuesday night, wrote a letter of support stating he was willing to change the easement on his side of Vince Road to accommodate county regulations and support the church’s project.
In the end, commissioners voted unanimously to support the church’s proposal under the stipulation that if any “trigger” events arise, such as lights put on the softball field, expansion of the church’s sanctuary or the sale of the church to a business, then the issue of expanding Vince Road would be brought back before the commission.
In other business, the planning commission held off on an item of contention concerning the amending of an ordinance geared at the elimination of future creation of “piano-key lots.” Several farm owners, also represented by Gullette, brought their concerns before the commission about the new ratio regulation.
The suggested amendment would change the existing language for lot dimensions, and shrink the minimum depth of a tract of land from 7.12 times the width to 5.51 times the width.
Gullette argued that the language would be a lawyer’s dream because of words like shall and should and that “there is no way this ordinance as written will stand up in court.”
Several landowners who were there stated that if the ordinance were to pass it would “devalue” their land property in an already difficult economic climate.
Gullette also argued that the market should decide the lots, not an out-of-date ratio requirement, and he said the commission should get rid of the ordinance altogether.
Smith along with Dal Harper with the Bluegrass Area Development District said they can rewrite the language and return at the next meeting with new language.
The December meeting was postponed until January. Chairman Pete Beaty said that decision was not to avoid the issue but because that would be the only item on the agenda and he did not think it would be fiscally responsible.
The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 14, 2013.