The Nicholasville Planning Commission voted 6-1, with one abstention, Tuesday night to approve the preliminary plat of the Westgate Subdivisions, despite the outcry of angry residents.
The four-hour meeting was standing room only in the Jessamine County court room as dozens of Nicholasville residents amassed to show their opposition to the proposed preliminary plat.
As the temperature rose so did everyone’s temper. Members of community interjected with comments or sarcastic laughter as attorney David Marshall, lawyer for the developer RCCB, LLC, made the case for a 24-house single-family subdivision off Wilmore Road (Ky. 29).
The public rumbling caused some commissioners to snap back at citizens. Commissioner Danny Fredrick got into a verbal confrontation with Tammy Altschul, of 108 Juniper Drive. Atlschul said she was completely offended when Fredrick accused her of “paying off” attorney Hank Grady, who represents the homeowners of the Lu-Carlton subdivision who oppose RCCB's proposal, because all she said was that "someone cared enough so send out fliers." She is not apart of the Lu-Carlton case nor had she met Grady before Tuesday night.
Another commissioner, Linda Kentz made a frustrated remark toward the plat's other opposing council, attorney Elizabeth Darby, right before she was to make her presentation. It got to one point where chairman John Quinn had to verbally reprimand the crowd and another point when the director of the planning/administrative office Greg Bohnett had to stand to ask the crowd to be respectful to those at the podium.
Kentz and Fredrick later apologized but the crowd was not easily quelled and many left in the third hour of the meeting muttering that the commissioners had "already made up their mind.”
One of the main concerns was that the plat could call for smaller homes thus devaluing the homes in the surrounding neighborhoods.
But Marshall assured the crowd they had no intention of building “cheap, starter homes.”
There were many other disputes about traffic congesting, the legal standing of the zone and building near the 100-year flood plan, all of which Marshall and engineer Jason Banks said they had addressed.
However, there was also the accusation by the opposition that Fredrick, along with two other commissioners, Richard Collins and Shawn Murphy, were in a direct violation of the code of ethics. Darby and Grady alleged that the three men had clear conflicts of interest stemming from possible financial gain over the project.
During public comment commissioners were asked about any conflict of interest they may have but only commissioner Bennie Hager publicly stated, "I assure you I have no conflict of interest."
After an exhaustive public hearing, Marshall made his final rebuttal to public and commissioners and said the developer was acting on “good faith” and that if they failed to “live up to that” when building this first-of-three areas as part of the comprehensive plan, then RCCB, LLC would answer for it when trying to develop the other plats.
The commissioners moved to voted a little after 11 p.m. Immediately, commissioner Burton Ladd motioned to deny the preliminary plat.
However, no second was made and the motion died on the floor.
Fredrick, one of the three accused of conflict of interest, put forth the motion to accept the plat and the variance needed.
He was seconded by Collins.
The rest of the commissioners voted yes, except for Murphy who chose to abstain from the vote.
However, according to planning and zoning attorney Robert Gullette, an abstention is not the same as a recusal and the vote is cast to the affirmation of the motion.
This passed the preliminary plat on to the next stage with a 7-1 vote by technicality.
Even if all three commissioners with alleged conflicts of interest would had recuse themselves there still would have been a quorum of five and the motion would have passed 4-1.
After the meeting, Collins said he had no comment on the allegation of a conflict of interest; Fredrick stated that he was a working man and did not feel there was any conflict of interest and Murphy commented that he “chose to abstain” from voting.
RCCB, LCC now has the option to begin development, but Gullette expects there to lawsuits filed immediately by Darby and Grady.
The only way to stop the Westgate subdivision is for the opposition to file an injunction while the litigation goes to a higher court.
“My hope is that a judge will bundle these lawsuits together," Gullette said. “And let the chips fall where they may. This could go on for years.”