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Planning Commission Recommends Against Taylor Mill Auto Shop, Piner Dollar Store

In separate agenda items, the Kenton County Planning Commission recommended against two zoning changes requested by businesses looking to expand in Northern Kentucky.

The first application reviewed was a map amendment request to the City of Taylor Mill's zoning code made by David Von Bokern, owner of DaVon Auto. Von Bokern has body shops in Covington and Bromley and is interested in the current Klenco Construction property on Pride Parkway for his third location.

In August, Von Bokern went before the Taylor Mill City Council to express his interest in a zone change for the property. At the time, City Attorney Frank Wichmann explained that Von Bokern must apply for a zone change and a public hearing with the Planning Commission which would then give a recommendation to the city, which would then make a final decision. Wichmann predicted that it would not be a favorable recommendation made by the Planning Commission, and he was right.

A major hang-up for The Planning Commission and its staff was the requirement that all commercially zoned businesses be at least five acres, while the Klenco property is listed as 4.95 acres. Von Bokern and his representative Jeff Flaherty argued that the zoning code states that acreage can be rounded up one decimal place which would then meet the five-acre requirement, but Planning Commission Attorney Matt Smith felt the five acres was a firm number and not one that could be rounded.

Another problem for the application was that because Pride Parkway has yet to be deemed a completed project, the state has yet to designate as an arterial road, even though it is almost certainly expected to be one once finished. Nonetheless, without the official designation, the Planning Committee took issue with the fact that Taylor Mill zoning code stipulates that businesses in that area must be adjacent to an arterial road, which Pride Parkway officially is not.

Current Klenco Construction and property owner Chris Klench vouged for Von Bokern's character and business reputation. “I grew up on this property,” he said. “I think there's a little reservation to say that I would just sell it to anybody and not care what goes there. (Von Bokern) is a man of his word.”

Nearly all of the other residents that spoke at the public hearing also praised Von Bokern for being open and engaging about his plans. Earlier in the summer, he knocked on doors of nearby residences to talk about his interests in the property and gather their concerns and feedback. On Thursday, he reiterated his intent on going about business in an ecofriendly fashion that significantly reduces the impact that similar shops have had on their surrounding neighborhoods.

The concern from residents against the proposed change was not primarily about DaVon Auto, but rather the possibility that if zoned as commercial, the property could be sold to a variety of potentially off-putting businesses in the area that could harm property value. Von Bokern emphasized his interest in a long term location at the site, but also recognized the financial benefits of someday selling the property as a commercial zoned business site.

“The residents are right about the backside of this whole deal,” he said. “In 10 years, 20 years, when I leave this to my kids, and if they don't want to be in this type of business, we're going to have to sell it, and the value of this property being a nonconforming use property is going to be nothing. It's going to be really hard to sell the property, but I'm trying to get the zoning not for anything other than doing the right thing.”

Other issues raised by the Planning Commission staff in their presentation included that automobile sales were prohibited commercially in the city, which is a component of DaVon Auto. Also outdoor storage is not permitted in the city, which would keep Von Bokern from keeping his cars and parts behind a proposed fence that he would place around the property.

Commission member Tom France summed up the general consensus in the end.

“Klenco was there first and the neighborhood was built up around it. Now they're asking for a zone change which if the ownership were to change hands at some point down the road, who is to say what the new owner might want to do with that property,” France said.

The Commission voted unanimously to recommend against the zone change. The City of Taylor Mill still must decide on if it will follow the recommendation of the Planning Commission or not in future meetings.

The other business denied was Dollar General and its interest in building a new store at the intersection of Kentucky State Routes 14 and 17 in Piner.

What KCPC staff found to be inconsistent with the Kenton County zoning code was that the scale of the building would not match the rural scenery that the community there is so proud to maintain.

Dollar General wanted to change the zone from agriculture to rural commercial in order to construct a 9000-sq. ft. building and a 36-space parking lot. Representatives of Dollar General said that market research and the County zoning code made Piner an ideal location which they identified as a place with a need for a store like theirs, but dozens of Piner residents showed up to voice the opposite sentiment, saying that they purposefully drive longer distances to box stores to keep box stores out of their neighborhood.

Dollar General insisted that it was not a box store, but was also not a dollar store, despite the company's name and general perception as one. As for the building-scale argument, Representative Tom Hamula pointed to the nearby church, fire house and elementary school as larger buildings in the area.

Members of the South Kenton Citizens Group responded that the other buildings make up the idyllic nature of the community and that a General Dollar store would rob the people there of the tranquility they seek in such settings. Many who spoke said they purposefully moved to Piner to be away from the hustle and bustle of the urban core and did not it want it coming to them.

The Citizens Group surveyed over 1,000 residents of southern Kenton County, asking them what they thought of a new Dollar General and over 86 percent opposed the idea. The presenters also pointed to six other dollar stores within a 10-mile driving radius of Piner, three of which were Dollar General stores. Other concerns raised was that traffic at the intersection would increase to the point of possibly needed a traffic light, traffic safety concerns with school buses entering and existing Piner Elementary, and even waste water in cisterns.

In the end all but one commissioner favored with the townspeople who did not want a Dollar General.

“It should have a scale and shape that when you drive the road, it looks, just like driving through Piner from 80 years ago,” said Commissioner Diane Brown

The Planning Commission is only a recommending body and final approval or denial of the zoning change in regards to Piner and Dollar General will be made by the Kenton County Fiscal Court in future meetings.

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor