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Developers Agree to Scrap Apartments in Villa Hills Settlement

The developers of Sanctuary Village, a large mixed-use development slated for the St. Walburg Monastery grounds in Villa Hills, announced Tuesday that they have reached an agreement with opponents over a zoning issue.

Edgewood-based Ashley Builders and the Benedictine Sisters of Covington, who live at St. Walburg, agreed to settle a zoning appeal launched last year by Defend VH, a group of residents opposed to the development, or at least aspects of it. The case had been in Kenton County Circuit Court for months.

In a news release, Ashley and the sisters stated that they agreed to a settlement in the case which sought to overturn a decision last year by the Villa Hills city council that permitted construction of the development, branded as Sanctuary Village.

The issue became a top issue in last November's city elections, resulting in the defeat of Mayor Butch Callery and five incumbent members of city council.

The developers worked closely with the city and Planning & Development Services of Kenton County to conduct an in-depth land-use study for the proposed project. City council approved a rezoning of the land last March. Defend VH opposed the scale and density of the project and appealed the city's decision in circuit court. The sisters planned to sell the property to fund their retirement.

“We are pleased that we have been able to work with our development partner and our neighbors in Villa Hills to resolve this matter and move forward with development of Sanctuary Village,” said Ashley partner Bill Kreutzjans, Jr.

In the settlement, Ashley agreed to scrap plans for 187 apartment units and will build single-family homes instead. The size of the apartment building, at four floors, had been a major point of contention for the development's opponents.

Ashley also announced that Drees Homes and Fischer Homes have signed on as building partners in the construction of the single-family homes.

As part of the settlement, Ashley also agreed to reduce the number of residential units permitted under the approved plan from 493 to 325.

Kreutzjans said that current development plans for Sanctuary Village show the following product mix:

  • 216 single-family homes;

  • 35 master townhomes;

  • 28 ranch-style cottages; and

  • 15,000 square feet of neighborhood-serving commercial/office as well as residential-HOA amenity space, such as work-out facilities and community meeting space.  Ashley will have an opportunity to construct another 15,000 square feet of this type of space if Ashley determines that market demand exists for this space.

The new development will include 18 single-family homes on lots with river views and other custom-built homes that will comply with architectural-control guidelines. The attached townhomes and cottages both will have alley-loaded garages.

There will be a community pool with a river view and a town center to include a community club and exercise facility and commercial retail opportunities. The development will include a walking trail with a river overlook, tree-lined streets, and planned green space, Kreutzjans said.

Kreutzjans said that site-development work on the property would likely begin this spring with construction of new homes is expected to start next spring.

On its Facebook page, Defend VH stated that the settlement agreement is subject to final entry by Kenton Circuit Judge Gregory Bartlett.  

“Petitioners were willing to resolve their claims on terms that would eliminate the originally planned 187-unit apartment building. Single family homes will be built in the area where the apartment building and parking lot were going to be located," said attorney Dan Knecht, who represents Defend VH in the proceedings, as attributed in the Defend VH Facebook post. "Additionally, the overall potential density of the project will be reduced. Importantly, the project will still secure the Sisters’ retirement through the sale of their land. The Agreement gives the Petitioners, and the residents of Villa Hills generally, the certainty for the next quarter-century that the land will be developed in a more measured way that better preserves the historical character of the Villa Hills community.”

Defend VH stated that there are still issues related to a separate development agreement between Ashley and the city and that they need to be resolved before the proposed settlement can be finalized, "but this is an important step in reaching a win-win solution to this issue," the statement read.

Ashley also agreed to support a new traffic study, if the city elects to pursue one, that may reduce the traffic-infrastructure improvements required under the previously approved development agreement.

“The changes we’ve agreed to in the settlement agreement will result in a reduction of traffic to Sanctuary Village,” said Ashley partner Jason Yeager. “However, any proposed reductions in the approved traffic-infrastructure improvement plan, if they are to occur, must be reviewed and approved by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.”

During the zoning hearings and throughout the year following the development’s approval by the city, Ashley heard from a large group of  Villa Hills residents who made it clear they did not agree with some of the recommendations set forth in that study or development parameters.

“We heard those concerns and we decided that we needed to find a solution we all could agree on,” Yeager said. “We felt it was in the best interest of our company, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg, and the Villa Hills community to settle this appeal and move forward with a high-quality Traditional Neighborhood Design development project in the community.”

The Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery issued the following statement: 

“The Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery are grateful and relieved that the Settlement Agreement has come to closure. We look forward to seeing the Sanctuary Village project developed by Ashley enhance the city of Villa Hills. Thank you so much.”

This will be Ashley’s fourth residential development project in Villa Hills, Yeager said. “We thought that resolving this matter with the residents was the right thing to do because we wanted to make sure this project had the same strong community support we had for our other Villa Hills projects and I now think that we do,” Yeager said.

“The Agreement gives the Petitioners, and the residents of Villa Hills generally, the certainty for the next quarter-century that the land will be developed in a more measured way that better preserves the character of the Villa Hills community,” Knecht, Defend VH's attorney, said in a separate news release.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher