City commission denies, then approves, zone change ordinance for rickhouses

Published 3:08 pm Monday, April 19, 2021

Editor’s note: At a city commission meeting on Monday, April 26, city commissioner Jennie Hollon stated that she had misspoke at the April 12 meeting about which distillery had no conditions on its rickhouses at the zone change level. She meant Wilderness Treil Distillery, not IJW Whiskey. Since this story was first published, it has been changed Tuesday, April 27 to reflect this correction.

Also, a quote included in a previous version of this story about how Hollon contacted a distillery’s employee and management has been removed because it lacked context and was not about the conditions on the zone change for their rickhouses. 

The Danville City Commission initially denied the first reading of an ordinance to rezone approximately 30.8 acres located at 1695 Lancaster Road from agriculture and highway business to light industrial for the development of rickhouses with a 3-2 vote. Then, after city attorney Stephen Dexter shared additional information later in the meeting prior to executive session, the commission reconsidered the first reading of the ordinance and approved it, again by a vote of 3-2.

Mayor Michael Perros and commissioner Denise Terry held onto their “no” votes both times, while commissioners Kevin Caudill and Jennie Hollon voted “yes” to approve both times. Commissioner James “J.H.” Atkins was the swing vote, both times, first voting “no,” then voting “yes.”

Though the matter was controversial among city commissioners, the recommendation for the city commission to approve the zone change came as a unanimous vote 7-0 of from the Danville-Boyle County Planning and Zoning Commission following a public hearing on Jan. 27. According to the minutes from the hearing, “three close neighbors to the property spoke in favor of the zone change, the business, and the developer,” and “Caldwell Stone spoke in particular favor of this zone change.” The planning commission decided the zoning map amendment was consistent with the Future Land Use Map and adopted goals and objectives, so they passed along the recommendation of approval for the zone change to city commission.

Development conditions placed on the zone change were the primary area of concern expressed during the April 12 meeting. The conditions are, in summary:

• The total building area for any single building will not exceed 100,000 square feet, and no building will exceed six stories tall.

• The applicant agrees the property will be used for a distillery operation, accessory uses for distillery operation, “storage of distilled spirits” and agricultural uses. There will be no adult entertainment as defined in the zoning ordinance, and “no automobile services, petroleum services, repair businesses, or self-storage units shall be allowed on this property.”

• The portion of property will have “only one direct construction access point to be served by Old Lancaster Road.”

The applicant for this zone change is LMD Holdings, LLC, and the nearly 40 acres is a small piece of the much larger Luca Mariano Distillery project planned on farmland off Ky. 52 in east Danville. The project is headed by Francesco Viola, founder and CEO of Luca Mariano Distillery.

Terry said to her, the conditions weren’t specific enough compared to other zone changes with more specific conditions placed on them.

“We’ve essentially written a blank check to something that’s 40 acres that, in my mind, essentially has no conditions,” she said.

Terry and Perros raised concerns about water and sewer operations on the property, as well as traffic impact, the potential for not just rickhouses but for a distillery to also be put on the property without sufficient infrastructure considerations, and some geographical concerns. Perros said the site being proposed is “very much Karst topography,” underneath which is “a honeycomb of limestone.”

Karst landscapes “are characterized by the presence of sinkholes, caves, springs, and sinking streams among other landforms,” according to the National Parks Service website.

However, Hollon, who has previously worked with the planning and zoning department, said she looked at the geography of the area and saw sinkholes but said consulting a geographical engineer if necessary and if going near the mouth of a sinkhole would typically be something to happen during the site plan process. Traffic shouldn’t be an issue provided just rickhouses are put on the property, she added.

Water and sewer plans and concerns are also something typically addressed on the site plan level, she said, which is consistent with the current zoning ordinance that the city commission approved two years ago.

City manager Earl Coffey also said deciding how to do water and sewer has traditionally been at the site plan level.

Hollon said conditions can be put on the site plan, and engineers can be at the site plan. She said some zone change proposals have had zero conditions in the past, for example for Wilderness Trail Distillery, which she said had zero development conditions for their rickhouses at the zone change level.

Later, she said, “I just don’t want to treat different developers differently.”

Hollon also said she doesn’t think the city commission is “wiser” than engineering at the site plan level.

Though Perros agreed with that point about engineering, he said since the commission represents the citizens of Danville, he wanted to make sure the decision made by the commission would set a good precedent for future proposals to come, considering the commission hadn’t zoned land of this large of acreage before for rickhouses.

The commission discussed the possibility of another public hearing, which Dexter said was the only possible way to add development conditions, but Dexter said the commission didn’t have enough time to have one.

However, during a short recess the commission took during the meeting and after the commission had initially voted “no,” Dexter was able to discuss the zone change “with counsel” and found that, when he went over the condition about water and sewer use the city was concerned about, he found that Kendal Wise, a co-owner of Vantage Engineering, PLC, and a professional engineer, is developing the site plan, which includes the extension of water and sewer services to the property even though the rickhouses don’t necessarily need it, and the site plan also has the property planned for rickhouse use only. The applicant wants construction to begin in May and has their crew and engineering ready.

This announcement changed the commission’s mind when Dexter said the commission could reconsider their decision if desired, and the vote tipped to 3-2 in approval of the first reading of the zone change ordinance. The ordinance needs an approved second reading to go forward.

This meeting provoked a larger discussion about the zone change process and the potential for a text amendment to the zoning ordinance.

In other business, the city commission:

Decided unanimously to pass along the following proposed Economic Development Authority board structure to the county’s fiscal court’s consideration: a seven-member board with a joint-appointed chair by the city and county, the county judge-executive, the mayor, a magistrate, the city manager, a city appointee and a county appointee. The city will take this decision to the county and see if the city and county can agree and correct the interlocal agreement.

• Proclaimed April National Fair Housing Month, proclaimed April 11-17 National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week and proclaimed April 18-24 National Volunteer Week.

• Unanimously approved a zone change recommendation from the planning commission for 0 S. 2nd Street from two-family residential to central business.

• Unanimously approved a zone change recommendation from the planning commission for 128 Wilderness Road from two-family residential to central business.

• Unanimously approved a resolution to renew city staff’s medical health plan for the 2021-2022 plan year with Trustmark as the designated third-party administrator, Cigna as the medical carrier and US-RX as the pharmacy benefit manager. The expected cost for the health plan for the new plan year is an expected $2.6 million an approximately 20% increase from the year prior.

• Unanimously approved a resolution for a change in the city’s payroll software system to Paylocity since the current software vendor will no longer be supporting payroll functions starting July 31. There will be a $57,000 annual software cost.

• After an executive session, approved the resignations of Gabe Heatherly from the fire department, Cindy Childress from the 911 center and David Lewis as police officer, approved the hiring of Chastity Shirley as a police officer and Nathan Looney as a firefighter, and approved the promotions of Mike Mulholland to deputy fire chief and Doug Holt to assistant public works director.