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In Taylor Mill, Proposed UDF is Stalled Again

In what many had thought would be a day of closure as to whether a United Dairy Farmers gas station and convenience store would be built in Taylor Mill, the city commission was unable to find a motion among its members when it came time to vote at their meeting on Wednesday, leaving the door open for further developments to what has been an ongoing saga between the city and a landowner for over a year.
Nine years ago, Phil Peace purchased the land on what is now Pride Parkway where he intended to build a home. Soon after, the Taylor Mill zoning codes changed and turned Peace's property into a future commercial development site. He partnered with UDF which agreed to move forward on constructing a gas station on Peace's land. 
Taylor Mill, though, has a rigid zone-based code, rules and guidelines for how businesses can construct their buildings in order to preserve a cohesive look and other interests of its city. Taylor Mill's case is a bit unusual in that it has four different districts within the city that can operate under different sets of zone-base code. In the district where Peace and UDF want to build, the city's rule is that all businesses must be up against the street without being setback into a parking lot, and that any gas station must put its gas pumps and parking in the back.  
UDF wants neither of those scenarios and has made it clear that building in that manner is not in their business interest. Mayor Dan Bell said that he has contacted the Lindner ownership group of UDF and hopes to set up a meeting to discuss ways that could still bring the gas station to Taylor Mill.
"Building up front, pumps in the rear. It's really not that tough," Bell said. "I've invited Mr. Lindner over here, I got a call back from him on Friday. Mr. Lindner and his brothers are coming to see me and we will be discussing it. I've reached out, I've done everything I can to get UDF to come to Taylor Mill."
Bell and the members of the city commission all agreed that they were not opposed to UDF, but were steadfast in their support of the Districts of Taylor Mill that the city adopted in 2007. The development effort will create a downtown environment in Taylor Mill where previously there was none.
Accommodating Peace and UDF with the necessary text amendment to the current zone which would allow the gas station to be built the way UDF wants, would mean compromising the Commission's vision for a more pedestrian-friendly place to live, and it was clear that was not a compromise they were comfortable making.
"It's being done right, if you look at what we're doing," said Commissioner Ed Kuehne. "UDF, I would like to see you here, but through our zoning requirements."
Another issue is that the city requires commercial lots to be 2.5 acres which means that Peace would still need to obtain a small portion of adjoining land to his property from the State of Kentucky which owns it. The state would have to sell to the city which would have to negotiate terms with Peace which could be a lengthy process of its own.  
Peace had hoped that a recommendation by the Kenton County Area Planning Commission to allow the text amendments would sway the city commission which, in his opinion, has wavered in its support of the project over the last 18 months. That recommendation was made after a four-hour meeting in February where PDS staff recommended against the text amendment, but in an unusual move, the Area Planning Commissioners voted 18-2 in favor of recommending that Taylor Mill make the changes anyway.
"I find it amazing that they asked for the opinion of the Planning Commission, they got it, and then they flipped the Kenton County Planning Commission the bird," Peace said.   
In that meeting at PDS, multiple Taylor Mill residents spoke up in favor of the UDF development, which former Taylor Mill mayor and member of the PDS Executive Management Board, Mark Kreimborg, said may have swayed the opinion of the Commission against the research done by its own staff.  
"Why the Kenton County Planning Commission overturned the recommendation of PDS baffles me, because PDS are the experts on planning and zoning," he said. "The Commission are appointed members from the cities, and I don't know whether the great turnout that the Peaces had persuaded the Planning Commission, but I do know that the Taylor Mill representative was against it, so my thought is if you're going to believe anybody, you have to go with PDS because they are the experts and their decision should have been what carried on that and I was really surprised that it didn't."
On Wednesday, though, there was closer to an even split of those for and against the changes to the text. Those there to support Peace included Casey Ward of Midland Retail who said he was acting as a consultant for Peace. Because Peace also owns the land across the street from the proposed UDF site, he has solicited other developers, but he says that he needs the money from the UDF project to fund the other development on the other side of the road. Midland Retail develops buildings for chains like Chipotle, Panera Bread, Potbelly, and others, and said that without the ability for any of those restauraunts to be set back away from the street would discourage such a possible development in the future. Ward cited the high speeds that cars travel along KY 16 as a risk to customers and a reason why any pedestrian activity along the road doesn't make business sense.  
As mentioned, not all were in favor of seeing exceptions be made to the zoning code for one business.  
"So far, promises of cheap gas and potential reduction of property tax have been upheld as reasons why residents should support these changes. The changes may well have those results; at the same time, I fear the unnecessary changes requested may pave the way for over-development in this area," Taylor Mill resident Glenn Howard said in a statement.
As to what is next, Peace says that he has to wait it out with UDF and continue to explore his options. Because there was no actual vote on Wednesday due to no motion made by the Commission, the issue can still be voted on in the future, according to city staff. 
"They'll wait," he said of UDF. "They want to be in Taylor Mill, but they are not changing their design." 
Story & photo by Bryan Burke, associate editor
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