At Planning Commission Meeting Fire Chief speaks on Possible Safety Issue

Published 9:01 am Wednesday, July 10, 2024

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The Nicholasville Planning Commission met on Monday, June 24, for a regular meeting to discuss various development plan approval requests. 

One request took up most of the commission’s time as it may cause a public safety issue, according to Jessamine County Fire District Chief Danny Eads. 

The item in question concerns two lots at 1310 S Main St, Nicholasville, KY 40356, a property bordering Jessamine County Fire District. The fire station is in the front of an industrial park and is one of the few operations in the park that has access directly to Main Street. The applicant is requesting approval for the final development plans for the property.

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According to Jason Banks of Banks Engineering, who attended the meeting on behalf of applicant Olive Builders LLC, the first lot will be the main focus of the development, and the second lot, Lot 5, will be for storage. The first lot will have around four units, and at least one will home a granite company. 

But, it turns out, it’s a complicated issue. When the Fire District bought the property in 2001, the deed included access for the property owner onto South Main Street from the Fire District’s private driveway. This access is called an easement. 

For context, on the other side of the Fire District building is John C Watts Drive and Star Court, from which the applicant could access his property. Director of Planning and Zoning Tim Cross asked Banks why the applicant couldn’t just use John C Watts and then Star Court to access Main Street, but Banks said that the owner may sell the storage lot with Star Court access in the future. 

Banks emphasized, before Chief Eads took the stand, that gates would be installed to enter their lots so that only the applicant could access the private driveway. The applicant also said that, for now, only one semi truck would use the private drive a week. 

“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t come speak to y’all tonight about this issue. I came tonight to talk to you about the entrance onto our private drive going through there onto our property. Our attorney looked this over, and he agrees it’s in the deed. But I will say, sometimes what’s legal is not always right,” Chief Eads said. “This is absolutely a safety issue and a concern for our community. That driveway is not only used for our employees coming to work. That driveway allows several pieces of our (firefighting) apparatus to respond to emergency calls. We do not only use the front of our station facing Main Street. We respond from the back of our station and come down that drive with apparatus. When we’re talking about fire service, police, EMS, we’re not talking about minutes, we’re talking about seconds that can be the difference between someone’s life.”

Eads’ main concern is that allowing the applicant to utilize the private drive will cause disturbances and possible delays. Eads brought up research from the Fire Protection Association (FPA), which states that although the United States had more fires in the 1980s, due to the increasing use of synthetic materials in construction, we now have quicker-growing, larger fires that cause more fire deaths than we had in the 1980s, even with fewer fires. 

His other concern is road repairs. He said the station has already had issues with the industrial park businesses using the Fire District’s private drive. “We just had a major repair in 2023 because our driveway connects to Star Court, and we had tractor-trailer traffic coming through trying to get to the industrial park, and they [caused damage] to our driveway. It was tax dollars we used, and it came to $14,000 for that repair,” Eads said. “Firetrucks don’t weigh what a tractor-trailer weighs. Due to that and because we’ve had factory traffic, we ordered a locking gate to be put on the Star Court end of our driveway cause we can’t continue to allow all that industrial traffic to cut through when traffic is bad…I’m not sure why anyone would use a private drive that was never designed for commercial use. Especially when this is for emergency use. We’re not building and selling things, this is a totally different operation.”

Eads added that he is worried about how many other business owners in the industrial park will ask about using the private drive if they see the applicant is allowed to, and how the promise of just one semi truck a week is “impossible to keep,”. 

In response, Banks reminded Eads that the deed allows an access easement, not a parking easement, meaning that the applicant can pass through the station’s property, but is still not allowed to park on the station’s property. He’s insinuating that the Fire District wouldn’t have to worry about a huge semi parked in their way during emergencies since it is not allowed as stated in the deed.

The Planning Commission’s attorney has worked closely with Tim Cross on this application, and after the Planning Commission decided to table this matter, which it can legally put off within a 90-day period, he suggested that Chief Eads and Banks and the owner of the property get together to negotiate. At July’s Planning Commission meeting, the commission will revisit the application. The July meeting will take place the fourth Monday of July at 7 p.m. in the Police Department community room. 

In addition to this conversation, Cross stated that the application will only be accepted next month if the property owner constructs a sidewalk along U.S. 27 in front of the property. Jason agreed to this condition. 

In other news, the commission approved the following requests:

  • Request for approval of amended final development plan for 1281 Keene Road. Requested by Keene 169 LLC of Lexington, Ky 40504.

This request is for the future Keene Landings subdivision, which will be developed on Teater Farm. Cross stated that initially, a condition for this application was that the applicant must construct right lines on U.S. 69 Northbound to U.S. 27. However, it was determined after that meeting that this is a project already being worked on by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Still, Cross stated that if, for some reason, KYTC pulls funding on this project, since the applicant agreed to the condition, the applicant would then have to step up and complete the project themselves. 

  • The commission also approved two lots at East Brannon Road, PVA Parcel #078-00-005.014. 

One lot will be a family-friendly restaurant likely to be open seven days a week, and the other will be two retail buildings with no businesses planned to fill those vacancies just yet. A few audience members asked questions regarding this item since the new Jessamine County Middle School will be located nearby, and plenty of individuals live in neighborhoods behind the property. One resident asked how tall the buildings would be, and the engineer answered that they would all be one story tall. Construction for these lots will likely take about a year and will likely start within the month, according to the engineer.