DEAD END: Proposed road closure dies in fiscal court

Published 1:52 pm Thursday, January 31, 2019

STANFORD — Not everyone in the county was ready to go along with the Lincoln County Fiscal Court’s plans to close the north end of Ridgeway Road.

Plans to close the exit onto U.S. 27 north of Stanford died for lack of a second after residents who live along the road objected to the closure during a public hearing on Jan. 22.

Ridgeway Road, which is .9 miles long, has four entrances onto the road. In addition to the north entrance, there are two exits off U.S. 27, WRSL Road and Ridgeway Spur. There is also an entrance off Hubble Road (KY 590). A traffic study showed that the north entrance got just 8 percent of the traffic on the roadway.

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Ralph and Geneva Gaffney, the owners of the property at the site of the proposed closure, were the biggest opponents of the issue.

“It will devalue our property, no doubt about that. Being on a dead end road. Taking an exit away that is right in our front door,” Ralph Gaffney said. “Now the people that are for this, they’ve all got exits right up there in their front door so they don’t give a hoot. But we’re on down the road. If you close it, I’ve got to go all the way back up through all that traffic, cars parked on the side of the road and everything else.”

“And it will only get worse and not better. I’m definitely against it.”

Geneva Gaffney chimed in on the issue concerning traffic post-closure.

“If you block it, eventually there will be traffic parked on the street just like it was a public driveway,” she said. “I have objection to having to weave my way back out because a couple houses above us have more than what their driveways can hold and I can picture what’s going to happen with that once the road is closed.”

The Gaffneys did not live on Ridgeway Road when talks of the possible closure started. They purchased their property from Bill and Betty Frazier in October of 2018.

Their concerns over the issue were heightened at the hearing when Lincoln County Judge Executive Jim W. Adams Jr. told them the turnaround would be right in front of their property.

“There will be a turnaround at that mailbox for trash trucks, school buses, whatever else,” Adams said. “The portion of the road up to your driveway would be closed. There would be enough of the road left in front of your house for a turnaround. So if you had, say a trash truck come down, then they can turn there.”

“Where are they going to turn at?” Ralph Gaffney questioned.

“On that road there,” Adams replied.

“In our driveway?” the Gaffneys asked.

“I’d assume that’s probably what they’d use,” said Adams.

“I don’t want them turning in my driveway,” Mr. Gaffney said. “I know how big trucks are. You wouldn’t have a driveway for long. Or a yard either. It’s a dumb idea. That’s all I’ve got to say about it.”

“Okay,” said Adams. “We’re here to discuss this. I appreciate your opinions.”

Two other residents of Ridgeway Road addressed the court during the public hearing, including Don Miracle. Miracle resides at what is currently the end of Ridgeway Road on the north end in a home owned by his father-in-law, Tommy Grimes.

“If you close off that road, that means no snow will be removed when it snows because the trucks will not be able to turn around. As you say, my road will be a driveway. So, no snow removal,” said Miracle. “Also, there will be no places, as this one gentlemen said, for school buses to turn around. Also, the trash removers, the only way for their trucks to get up there is from the north exit. I don’t think this gentleman wants those heavy trucks smashing his driveway.”

“Also, most times when there are emergencies and rescue vehicles come, they have to come in through the north way. The way by the (old) radio station is, as you know, so narrow that two vehicles cannot hardly come up there at one time. So it would be very expensive to widen that road … I went house-to-house the other day and most of people do not want that road shut off because of the inconvenience of trash, UPS, mail service. Vehicles they are talking about going so fast through there. They pick up the speed past the radio station. As the other gentleman says, speed bumps could probably be just as effective.”

Miracle also touched on the safety of the Ridgeway Road children while he had the floor.

“Talking about the school kids and stuff. People parking in the road is the hazard,” he said. “When you park in the road, you can’t see children that could run out between these vehicles. If the vehicles aren’t parked in the road, you could see the children playing and slow down. If people weren’t parking in the road, maybe the chance of a child being hit by a car would be eliminated.”

Scott Rogers, who lives on Ridgeway Road near the WRSL exit, also voiced his concerns about the proposed closure.

“There is a lot of traffic on that road,” he started. “If you close that end of it, then the other entrances will get flooded even more. So then they start coming down there in front of my house. I know I’m just one. There are more people on the north end, and I see their point. The road’s getting more populated all the time.”

Rogers, who said he uses the WRSL exit most, had his grandkids safety in mind, as well.

“I’ve got grandkids that are getting older that will be playing out in the yard and I am concerned as all the rest of you are about their safety,” he said.

This closure request also drew debate among non-residents.

District 1 Magistrate David Faulkner pointed out to the court that City Councilman Ronnie Deatherage was opposed to it as the floor was open to comments.

“Not personally opposed to it,” Deatherage said rising from his seat to approach the court. “I live out on Edgewood and, when I go to Lexington or go north, that’s the exit I use, but this makes no difference to me. But I’ve had like five phone calls from different people thinking this is in the city. They wanted to express their concerns to me because they thought it was a city road. I told them they needed to go ahead and address you all because it was a county road. I’m here because I wanted to let you know that I had five phone calls against it.”

As a former Director of Transportation & Safety for the Lincoln County School system, one particular phone call stood out to Deatherage.

“One of those phone calls was from a bus driver,” he said. “I used to be in charge of the buses. If we can go a straight road, we like a straight road. You guys have been pretty good about putting turnarounds in for us. But anytime we have to turn a bus around it’s a possible cause for an accident to happen.”

Julian Gander, a resident of Ridgeway Road, officially approached the court in June about closing the north exit of the road, saying that the neighborhood had become a hotbed for speeders and posed a safety risk.

“People have a good speed going when they get to in front of my house,” Gander said during the court’s June 12, 2018 meeting. “They get a good speed going since they are coming from the road back near Tommy’s (Owens) business (which sits near the Ridgeway-Hubble Road intersection).”

The court asked Gander to bring a petition to the court signed by residents along the road to begin the road-closure process – and he did.

“When I came to fiscal court the first time, you all had asked me to get signatures of everybody that lived on the road to a certain point.

As Mr. (David) Faulkner (Magistrate 1) has highlighted there (illustration), everyone of those before and after the sale of Bill Frazier’s house have signed the petition that was asked. Of the 8 percent that use that (entrance), maybe 1 percent are actually people that live on that road. It’s the people that live on the roads past the … I don’t know what the roads are called back there in the Depot Restaurant area. And they do come fast. One bus that comes through there is for somebody’s grandkids and they’re middle-school age now so ….”

“I’ve done everything the courts asked. People do go really fast. Anybody that comes up there can say they go fast. Most of the people that are on that road are just trying to bypass it. You can’t tell me it’s faster to come up our road than to come down 27 and turn on one of the other exits.”

Faulkner, who represents the district which includes Ridgeway Road, was the magistrate making the motion to close the entrance/exit.

“It’s probably been a year ago that we were approached about the possibility of closing the north end of Ridgeway Road. Basically, what we told Julian was that if the majority of the people wanted it closed, that the court didn’t object to that,” said Faulkner. “But we asked him to get us a petition or a list of signees that would be interested in seeing it closed. About two months ago or so, Julian presented the court with a list.”

“The majority of the houses on there wanted it closed or indicated at the time that they wanted it closed. Now I understand there may be some opposition. The court has spent some time, effort and funds trying to determine logistically what would be the right thing to do,” he added. “As far as I’m concerned, being the magistrate of that district, I want to do what the majority of the people want done. That’s what we’re basing this on. That’s what I based my opinion to the court on, is the fact that the majority of the people had requested the closure.”

Faulkner noted that the court had closed roads before and said that had it not been for the public hearing and some opposition that it “probably would have been a clear-cut case of going ahead and closing the road.”

District 4 Magistrate Joe Stanley said the day’s hearing made him rethink the closure.

“What David said is all true, that Julian came to us a year ago and asked us,” he said. “There hadn’t been any resistance up to this point. Now it seems like we do have some. Like David said, we’ve closed roads before. But if there is resistance, we look at that as being pretty important. Maybe for some reason we shouldn’t. I know this family here (Gaffneys) has shed a different light on it in my viewing.”

“There’s no doubt about it. It needs to be open.”

Faulkner, who made the motion to close the north end, said he appreciated and respected the opinions of the citizens in attendance but that he had to “serve the needs of the people and the desires of the people.”

“With no disrespect to anyone that has spoken in here, the majority of the people up there that would be mostly affected on that end have asked for us to close it. And in a democracy, the majority rules,” he said. “Between that cluster of houses and the exit to 590 there are three exits. It’s my duty to make a motion that we close the north end of the road based on the desires of the people that live there.”

Adams asked for a second after Faulkner’s motion – there was no response. When a second request for a second went unanswered, he said, “If not, the motion dies for lack of a second.”

As the hearing came to a close, Adams expressed his appreciation to those participating.

“We appreciate all the attendance,” he said. “We’ve been civil. I appreciate that. I appreciate Julian’s efforts and those in opposition. This is how government works. Some people are happy with an outcome and some people aren’t. At least we’re making an effort, which is more than I can say for Frankfort and Washington. This is a good example of how government works.”