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Stanford residents see red over proposed county fire house site

STANFORD — A plan for property on KY 590 (Hubble Road) as the future home of Lincoln County Station No. 1 is meeting with resistance.

Residents on Hilltopper Drive in Cash Creek Estates, which backs up to the 5.792 acres in question, have been up in arms after learning of plans to relocate Station No. 1 from its present location on U.S. 27 to KY 590 in early November. However, residents are not the only ones with a concern. Larry Nunemaker, a member of the Stanford Planning and Zoning Commission, also has questions about the process by which the plan was devised for the land, which in the city limits.

Nunemaker brought his concerns before the Stanford City Council Thursday night.

“When the citizens of Hilltopper heard about plans for the property, they went before the county fire board, and the people on the county fire board told them that planning and zoning had already recommended that be done and approved it. But that’s within the city limits of Stanford and it must come forth to the city planning and zoning commission first and then to the board of adjustments, if it goes on to that and is approved,” said Nunemaker. “I’m just trying to figure out how county planning and zoning can tell these citizens that went out there to a board meeting of the county fire board … how they are saying that it’s all been taken care of. That it’s a done deal and they have nothing to worry about.”

“It (property) is within the city limits and before anything can progress further within the city limits, it has to be approved by the city planning and zoning commission, even though the county has approved it and told these people that it’s approved and it’s a done deal. If the planning and zoning commission recommends that this be done and the fire department be building – it might be two weeks or two years, I don’t know – but then they have to go before the board of adjustments and have it reclassified from R-1 to B-3. And that hasn’t happened yet.”

Nunemaker’s remarks prompted Stanford City Council member Naren James to ask, “Are you saying that nothing came before P&Z with the city?”

“No, we were not consulted,” answered Nunemaker.

“I was under the impression that you guys were consulted,” said James, who resides in Cash Creek Estates as well but not on Hilltopper. “Let’s be clear, I have somewhat of a conflict since I live in that area. But having said that, the constituents on Hilltopper are more affected than I am. It’s within my eyesight. My wife went to that meeting and she reported to me that that’s what was told to them – that everything was done and signed off. I’m just a little surprised. I can’t believe P&Z didn’t know. That it wasn’t posted in the neighborhood that there was going to be a meeting, that the property was up for some type of revision so the citizens of the area would know. None of that happened. I think it’s a serious problem. I think the county may have overstepped.”

James questioned when the fire station house would be put on the site but no one had an answer. Stanford City Council member Ella Mae Curlis then asked whether anyone had talked to county planning and zoning on the issue.

“I’ve talked to the judge-executive (Jim W. Adams Jr.). I talked to the mayor (Scottie Ernst),” answered Nunemaker. “Lester (Mullins), he is the chairman of planning and zoning for the county. There are several other members on there and I know every one of them and I’m sure they’ve approved this as far as the county is concerned, but that doesn’t have a bit to do with the city. Now, the city may approve it all the way through, I don’t know, I’m just saying right now that it’s zoned R-1 and there’s no building that can be constructed on that property back there, that’s all zoned R-1, without coming before planning and zoning. I just don’t want steps to be taken that are not representative of the planning and zoning commission. The county cannot dictate what the city does within the city limits.”

Unclear of the issue of what the fire department can and can’t do, Curlis asked Stanford Fire Chief Scott Maples to offer insight.

“Scott, will you explain to us what you explained to us last month about that the fire department has the right to go in and build …,” she began.

But she got no answer. “That wasn’t me explaining,” said Maples. He did go on to say that, from what he heard at the last meeting, that they are exempt (from going through city planning and zoning).

And that’s when Deborah Morris, a Hilltopper Drive resident, joined in the conversation.

“That’s not what Frankfort is saying,” she stated. “I spoke to several different people in Frankfort. First, I called my representative and he put me in touch with Sarah Gibson Les, who works for the Legislative Research Commission. He had her call me and she spoke with me and we talked about that very thing. She had done research on it and she said zoning has to be changed and it must go through local planning and zoning.”

Stanford City Council member Dalton Miller asked Morris, “Have they started building yet? Have they done anything?”

“They’ve come and they’ve put stakes where it’s going to go, as far as I know,” she said. “When we asked at the county fire board meeting, it was under old business. They said it had been going on for six months or so.”

The day the stakes were being put up by her property was the first knowledge Morris had of plans for the adjoining property.

“They measured from the corner of my fence where the building … and that’s how I found out,” she said. “I never would have bought my house that I live in now had there been a fire building right behind my back fence.”

Stanford Council member Peggy Hester asked Mayor Ernst if he knew about the situation. “I was aware of it, that they were going to be building something there and I was told that … a government agency had the authority to just go and do that – a government entity,” he answered, saying he was told that by the judge executive.

“Well, he’s not a lawyer,” Hester responded.

“But they don’t run the city,” Curlis interjected.

“I know, but a government entity … he told me they could do that,” said Ernst.

City Attorney John Hackley jumped in saying, “I think the city and county governments still have to live up to their own zoning regulations.”

All this confusion over the issue is why Morris turned to Frankfort.

“There was someone who spoke (at December council meeting) that said they had been told that the county entity could put a building wherever they wanted to. That’s why I wanted to contact someone in Frankfort and find out, ‘Is this true? Can this really happen?’” she said. “Because to us, and me personally, the building is going to be right in my backyard, basically. I mean, it’s right there. That’s what I’m going to be looking at. There’s just a whole lot that goes with it that I don’t understand: 1) it’s within city limits; 2) it’s in a residential neighborhood. (KY) 590, Hubble Road, is not built for …. I mean, it’s hard enough to get past one of Tommy Owens’ dump trucks when you’re coming down that road, let alone a fire truck that’s in a hurry.”

“I don’t have anything against the fire department. I just don’t want them in my backyard,” added Morris. “If my house catches on fire or Dr. James’ house catches on fire, we have to wait for the city to respond before the county gets called in, even if they’re sitting in my backyard. That’s not saying they wouldn’t come but, as far as it serving the residents of that neighborhood, it doesn’t.”

The 5.792-acre tract on KY 590 was part of a land exchange between the Lincoln County Fire Protection District and Wade Hampton Owens III recorded in the Lincoln County Clerk’s office on Nov. 12, 2019. In the first deed recorded, the Fire Protection District deeded two tracts of land on U.S. 27 to Owens. The fair cash value of the property conveyed was listed at $35,000. The deed was dated Nov. 1. The second deed recorded was the 5.792 acres from Owens to the Fire Protection District. It’s fair cash value was also listed at $35,000. The deed was dated Oct. 31.

A stipulation on the U.S. 27 property was that the Lincoln County Fire Protection District retained ownership of the building on the property but that the building must be moved by July 24, 2020, to other property owned by the Lincoln County Fire Protection District which is utilized for fire protection purposes. If building is not removed by July 24, 2020, it becomes the property of Owens.

Morris and neighbor Imogene Dawson took it upon themselves to make their neighbors aware of the situation and to gather signatures of those opposed to the move..

“We went around on Sunday afternoon after church and caught as many people at home as we could in the area,” said Morris. “We have 29 or more signatures just of the people that we could catch during the holiday season that were home. I would venture to say that about 95 percent of the people we talked to didn’t know anything about it and were very shocked to hear about it. They are not happy with it.”

Ernst assured Morris, Dawson and Nunemaker that Hackley would check into the issue to “see what we can find out about it.”

Before discussion on the issue was closed, Hester had pointed words for the county entity(ies) involved and offered her support for citizens like Morris and Dawson.

“First of all, they need to cease and desist any further action on that property. It’s not zoned correctly,” she said. “The only thing I have to say to you and the other residents there is you have every right to stand up. It doesn’t matter if a county board or a city board or mayor or county judge says so or that’s a done deal. It is not a done deal. It is not, by no means, a done deal. So don’t back off. Keep going.”

“We’re in a small town here. And for many years, the whole time that I’ve been growing up here, you’ve been growing up here, you’ve been growing up, there’s always one group that controls what’s going on in this town. If you don’t stand up, they are going to run right over you. I would be irate and I would be at every meeting I could go to to keep that from happening. I’ll probably end up having to recuse myself eventually, cause they like to ask me to do that, but I’m telling you tonight on record, you need to stand up for yourself on this.”

James expressed concern that there had been no process of notifying residents that there were plans in the works which would affect them. “I think it’s terrible that neighbors (of property) knew nothing about what was going on.”

“Or they could say we are looking at this property,” added Stanford Council member Ronnie Deatherage. “I did not know anything about this other than hearsay.. I did not know anything about this.”

“More and more this council doesn’t know what was going on. More and more,” said Hester.

Miller and Hackley both stated that they learned of the issue when it was discussed at the Dec. 5 city council meeting. Stanford Council member Sara Givens said she did not know until Thursday. Givens, Hester and Deatherage (death in family) were all absent when the issue was brought up in December.

“Exactly,” said Nunemaker. “ I didn’t know about it until it was brought up to me that it was going on. I’m not saying that the county is trying to push something through without any recognition of what’s going on. I’m just saying something’s not being done right. The citizens of Stanford should be notified about this when they’re out there staking it off and attempting to break ground. And planning and zoning should have been notified. I’m not against the county having a fire department, but I want it to be done correctly. That’s all I’m saying. That’s all I’m asking for.”

Hackley assured Morris that he would check further into the issue, stating that, even if county fire is “exempt from regulations from local planning units, adequate information concerning proposals must be furnished to planning commissions.”

Amending the Code of Ethics by Addition in Relation to Absenteeism

The Stanford City Council and other city entities had no stipulation regarding absenteeism prior to Thursday’s meeting, however, the council showed its desire to amend and adopt a new ordinance relating to absenteeism by passing the ordinance Amending the Code of Ethics by Addition in Relation to Absenteeism.

According to the amended ordinance, “No city council member, board member or committee member of the city or a city agency, who is elected or appointed to a position necessitating attendance at city council meetings, board or committee meetings, shall miss more than one third of such regularly scheduled meetings in a 12-month period. Any member, board member or committee member who misses more than one-third of such regularly scheduled meetings in a 12-month period shall be considered neglectful of the position, and upon complaint to the City of Stanford Board of Ethics, and a finding by said board of such degree of absenteeism, such violation shall be grounds for removal from office or employment with the city in accordance with any applicable provisions of state law and ordinances, rules or regulations of the city.”

In the case of the city council, all five members would have to vote to have the “neglectful” member removed for such action to take place.

The amended ordinance passed unanimously, but there would be a discussion on the issue before it went to a vote.

“A person on city council was elected by the people and I don’t think he could be removed,” Ernst said as the amended ordinance was debated. “I don’t think you could get five to vote to remove because of that.”

“My concern is that it serves as a solution in search of a problem,” said James. “I don’t know what the problem is.”

“It’s a problem when we have one member or two members that are constantly not at meetings, Dr. James,” Hester answered. “We sometimes need for all people to be here.”

“My question is, do you see a situation, currently, among other boards, other council members that would warrant this?” James asked Hester. “Have you had an incident in the past four years serving on this council where you think you would apply this ordinance?”

“You want me to be honest?” she answered. “Well, I think you’ve missed too many meetings.”

“I was here last meeting and there was nobody here,” James said, referring to the December meeting having to be cancelled because there was no quorum.

“That’s one example,” said Hester.

“That’s my point, everybody misses now and then,” James said.

“I missed because of death,” Deatherage jumped in.

Hester continued to say James is the “chief problem,” even though, he uses Skype to take part in council meetings when he is on the road. “You run for the office. You need to make the effort to get to the meetings,” she said.

Deatherage changed the subject, going back to James’ statement that he doesn’t “know what the problem is.”

“This is so you have mechanisms in place if it were to become a problem” he said. “Then you would have to have something to fall back on. You can’t wait until it becomes a problem and then go back in retrospect try to fix it. Yes, it takes all five. That’s why it’s so hard to get rid of somebody. But it is something that has to be looked at. We have the same thing with Scottie, the mayor’s position. There is a provision that it takes all six of us to get rid of a mayor, but it’s there if it were to come up that you needed to do that. So there should be something in place here that we could fall back on if the need were to arise of some sort of misconduct, malfeasance or whatever, that you could rely back on. It should not be a problem.”

“It applies to all board members throughout the city,” said Miller. “That’s why I agreed to it … it holds people accountable.”

“If you’re willing to serve and you want to serve, then you need to make a commitment to be here, whether it’s on this board, mayor’s office, planning and zoning, ethics – that meets once a year,” said Deatherage.

First Reading

The city council introduced the Ordinance Amending HB422 and Planning and Zoning Ordinance and approved the first reading. The ordinance corrected typographical errors and some section number changes, changed the time of Stanford Planning and Zoning Commission meetings from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 every second and fourth Monday of the month and established paying members of the Code Enforcement Board $50 for any month that at least one meeting is held.

The council also approved paying the Code Enforcement Board retroactively from July 2019 (when the pay was budgeted) to the present.

Jim Jarrett had also asked that any overlap between Planning and Zoning and Code Enforcement be corrected. Hackley noted that he found only two instances of overlap and that text had been struck out. The council passed the first reading to amend the text of City of Stanford Zoning Ordinance.

Gilliland Appointed to Planning and Zoning Commission

Mayor Ernst made a recommendation to the council to approve the appointment of Joe L. Gilliland to the Stanford Planning & Zoning Commission for a four-year term from 2020 to 2023. He would be replacing Jim Jarrett, whose term expired on Dec. 31, 2019.

The council would approve the appointment but they first asked one question – why Gilliland over Jarrett? Jarrett had been serving since 2017, taking over the term of Tammy McDaniel who resigned.

“I prefer to have Mr. Gilliland on the board as opposed to Mr. Jarrett,” Ernst answered, adding that he had planned to make the recommendation at the December meeting.

“According to my notes, we’ve got three whose terms expire this month,” said Deatherage. “We’ve got Judy Hester that’s due this month. Jim Jarrett’s going to be due this month. And Larry (Nunemaker), I guess you took Joe’s place (Gilliland, who had resigned).”

Nunemaker was reappointed last meeting. 

“So, I’m asking why? And don’t say because you want to,” said Deatherage.

“We have had two board members on planning and zoning resign because of him. We’ve got two other planning and zoning board members that, if he stays on, that they are going to resign,” Ernst answered.

“And you no longer have a zoning attorney because of him,” Hackley interjected. “He would be willing to work with them if he’s not on the board.”

Hester jumped to Jarrett’s defense.

“Everything he’s done has been right on,” she said. “He has the law in front of it. He brings it. He speaks it. If you don’t like the truth … You cannot disprove one thing that he’s brought before planning and zoning and this council.”

Hackley disputed that comment, saying Jarrett said he had an attorney to back up what he was telling the council about not needing a certain ordinance during a meeting in 2019, but that he called the lawyer and he said he’d never heard of him (Jarrett).

Before the appointment went to a vote, Curlis reminded the council that it said it would not keep recycling people, “New people, new faces, new ideas,” she said.

The motion was made by Dr. James to appoint Gilliland and Curlis seconded the motion. It passed 4-3. Deatherage, Givens and Hester all voted no and James, Miller and Curlis voted yes. Ernst broke the tie with a yes.

In other busines

* Council looked at renderings of signs to mark the city limits. The 48” x 96” lustre board panel would have three-dimensional plastic letters, with a lifetime guarantee on the letters. The sign would read, “Welcome to STANFORD. Est. 1775. Kentucky’s 2nd Oldest City,” and would be flanked by rock columns. The renderings showed the sign being green, but Curlis asked that the sign be blue. The cost of a sign is $1,339.15, installed.

* The issue of council meetings not being accessible to all people, with acoustics and technology problems at the forefront, was readdressed. The council discussed making  improvements to the L&N Depot where meetings are currently held. Will continue to look at costs.

* When paying his house and car insurance, councilman Ronnie Deatherage saw that, in addition to a city fee, there was a miscellaneous charge from the city. He asked Mayor Scottie Ernst what that was for. Neither Ernst nor any of the council members knew what it was for and some said they needed to check their insurance bills. “I will call my insurance agent tomorrow because I didn’t know,” said Dalton Miller.

* Deatherage thanked the council for sympathy card sent to his family following the death of his mother, Nell Deatherage.

* Ernst noted $50 donation to the Lincoln County Educational Fund in memory of Elaine Sebastian.