Junction City will ask to rejoin Boyle P&Z

Published 7:05 pm Monday, January 14, 2019

Junction City is making its first move to rejoin the Danville-Boyle County Planning and Zoning Commission. P&Z Director Steve Hunter brought new city council members up to speed on the issue during the council’s first meeting of 2019 last week.

Hunter told the council — now comprised of new members Connie Vernon, Vicki Bowling and Mary Hurst; and returning members Kenny Baldwin, Bill McCowan, Steve Martin and Merle Baldwin — that getting Junction back into the commission will take a lot of steps and wouldn’t be complete overnight.

“But we will get it done and make it happen. The prior council gave the mayor the right to start the process,” Hunter told the council. “We have to ask to come back in through the other governments.” He came with three letters prepared for Mayor Jim Douglas to sign off on — one to Boyle Judge-Executive Howard Hunt; one to Danville Mayor Mike Perros; and one to Brian Caldwell, Perryville’s new mayor.

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Hunter explained that even though Junction operated “pretty well” without being in P&Z, it was important for the city to have subdivision regulations in place.

“But, if another plat comes in, people will be buying things with no subdivision regulations,” Hunter said, which isn’t fair to homebuyers who may be unaware of the situation.

Hunter said he’d already “spoken to everyone, and they don’t have any issue with you coming back in. They will support it.”

Mayor Douglas told new members that when Junction unanimously voted to drop out of P&Z, back in 2009, the city attorney at that time —  George Fletcher — ”assured us the way it was done, everything was right. Turns out that’s not true. Right now, we have no say over any buildings.”

In 2011, the Boyle County Circuit Court issued a partial judgment removing Junction’s city limits from P&Z’s authority.

But last year, the city’s ability — or lack thereof — to enforce zoning regulations on its own was called into question, after city officials butted heads with a local developer who submitted a plat to the Boyle County Clerk’s Office without a Junction City signature on it.

P&Z Attorney Bruce Smith has said previously he believes Junction has no authority to enforce zoning regulations and could not gain that authority on its own, even if the city created its own P&Z regulations.

Douglas told new members the city opted out of the P&Z commission because they felt “not everyone was treated the same,” and said some were granted permits to build while others weren’t; and that P&Z at the time selectively enforced regulations in a way he felt was unfair. The city opted not to create its own P&Z commission because Douglas said they couldn’t afford it, and they were legally advised they had their own ordinances and rules that governed developments.

Douglas said he doesn’t believe unfair treatment would be an issue with Hunter at the helm.

“People weren’t being treated fairly. Some were OK’d to do some things, while others weren’t allowed to do the same. But now that Steve’s in, I don’t worry about that. Steve has done a wonderful job getting it fixed,” Douglas said.

Hunter said aside from the “one hiccup” over last year’s plat for newly added streets to the Shelby Green neighborhood, “you guys are managing them yourself.” But after the surprising advisement by P&Z’s attorney Smith that Junction has no enforcement authority, he felt it was time to get something done.

“It’s just not where I think we want to be as a community,” Hunter said. “The plan is let’s get back in this together … and figure out a way to get these regulations back into play.”

Junction would be required to pay $250 to rejoin.

“I don’t know what it was back in the day, but we set up an agreement that you and Perryville pay a nominal fee, since we don’t really do much down here,” Hunter said.

The council unanimously voted to approve of Douglas signing the letters, the first step of rejoining the commission.

“We’re starting this process. You guys are months away from getting a new ordinance,” Hunter said.

A new zoning ordinance for Junction City should be developed in a way that is tailored for the community, “not a one-size fits all — the whole ordinance needs a re-do,” he said.

School traffic issue

The council also brought up an ongoing traffic issue officials say has been getting progressively worse throughout the years — cars backed up on city streets during afternoon pick-up at Junction City Elementary School.

Council member Kenny Baldwin brought up the issue again because, he said, “It’s getting to the point where it’s truly dangerous.”

Some discussions had been initiated with Boyle County Schools in order to develop a better traffic plan for the school, but the council had been waiting until the new school board was in place before attempting to reconnect over it.

“Let’s give them one more chance to make that right,” Mayor Douglas said. “Now, we can only put up signs to not block the intersection.”

The area has always been a problem, Police Chief Merle Baldwin said, but “every school year it gets progressively worse.” He said the only other alternative he knows of is to start writing tickets to those who are parking on city streets.

“I know a lot will look at that as negative,” Kenny Baldwin said. “But as far as I’m concerned I don’t care. Kids are going to get hurt.”

Located on School Street, the elementary has cars lined up beginning around 2:15 p.m. each school day; school lets out around 3 p.m. Since the road the school is situated on is shaped like a horseshoe and there’s no room in front of it, cars back up off Lucas and Grafton streets, sometimes spilling out onto Main.

Cars end up basically parked on Grafton Street, going toward Lucas, because it’s not wide enough to park on the sides, resulting in blocked traffic for residents or others going through the area. Sometimes, they are parked on Main, as well, council members said.

Kenny Baldwin said as soon as the cars are backed up on Grafton and back towards Main, drivers cannot see oncoming traffic due to the way the streets are laid out and a big hill in the area. Many have come close to clipping side mirrors.

“I’ve had more than two or three people telling me they’ve almost gotten hit,” he said. “And at the same time, if we have a fire or EMS run, or a police call in certain areas, those cars will have to back up, move or do something. There’s no way an ambulance can fit up there. There’s just no place to go.”

Kenny Baldwin said they want to work with Boyle Schools and figure out an alternative way of directing traffic that’s safer.

“I’m assuming there’s a few hundred kids at that school. It seems the majority of them are being picked up instead of riding the bus,” he said. “If it comes down to us, our solution is to put up signs saying no parking on the street from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If they violate, they’re going to get a ticket.”

He said he knows that may upset a lot of parents, “but I’d rather step on a toe than have someone killed. And it’s not right for the people who live on that street, that they get blocked in for an hour.”

In other business, the council also renewed its contract with Air Evac Lifeteam 56 at a cost of $11,860 a year. Although some thought this amount was high, others said that cost is about a third of what one actual run costs with the service.