A young woman attending Eastern Kentucky University recently began the milestone of searching for a home.

She and her fiance were ready to find a home of their own after years of living with roommates.

Like many young couples, they could not find one in the city of Richmond and faced uncertainties of where they may live. Luckily, with connections, they were able to find a house to buy. 

“We chose to stay here because we love Richmond,” said Madison Bowlin in her attempts to convince the Richmond Planning and Zoning Commission to approve the annexation and zone changes of 423 acres on Barnes Mill and Goggins Lane for a concept which could become The Farms at Barnes Mill.

After approval, the county acreage zoned UC7, agricultural, would be annexed to the city of Richmond and reclassified as Planned Urban Development and agricultural for commercial, multi-residential, single-family residential, and green space at 1326 Barnes Mill Road.

“It will be truly a mixed development and anchored by single-family lots,” said Nick Nicholson, the representative of Ramsey Development.

He said this community would not be for the traveling public as a planned neighborhood and would not compete with the Richmond Centre, but be a “vibrant location” offering places to live, shop, and eat.

At the public hearing Tuesday night, the commission heard from many residents of Richmond who were for, against, or had a mixed bag of emotions about the proposal.

Susan Hill was for the project because of how short on housing the city of Richmond was, like Bowlin had mentioned.

Hill shared statistics from her one-person practice as a realtor, saying in just the first five months of 2021, she had 221 qualified buyers, and only 105 people found homes. One-hundred and sixteen people are still seeking to purchase, and 20%. of those, went to surrounding counties. 

This growth and increased property taxes were reasons people favored the proposed annexation and planned urban development zone change.

Josh Barrett, a real estate agent, stated Richmond had been given a “golden opportunity.”

“Does Richmond want to grow or die?” He said. "We have a need with housing shortages across the nation and the state. Let's seize this opportunity, and let's make Richmond amazing.”

An outsider, as he dubbed himself, one man from Lexington who has friends who are graduates of EKU, said, “Richmond didn’t even have a seat at the table,” when they talked about where they would like to have a home.

“Richmond is not appealing to me, but this project is,” he said.

Those against it cited concerns about the roads, traffic, flooding, and development of the existing infrastructure.

One of whom was Debbie Vescio and her husband, who gave a list of their shared concerns on Tuesday night.

She stated the project concept was not the problem, but the roadways they existed on, are.

“We aren’t against development; we just don’t support it in areas where the infrastructure isn’t in place,” she said.

Kris, her neighbor, who moved into the area a year ago, agreed for the same reasons and even insisted the road infrastructure be addressed before moving forward.

Josh Long, a fourth-generation farmer of Newby, said he had mixed emotions about the proposed change but overall had a lack of trust in it.

“My biggest issue and what you see as the fault line as it was described on this side of the room is the lack of trust from the public of accountability in planning and zoning. I am not placing that on these members of the panel this evening because these are past transgressions and developments long ago,” he said.

He said he did not trust what they were told would actually take place.

“I have real concerns about what this property will do for the landscape of the community but also have trust issues from an accountability perspective. I can't say how many planning meetings I have been to since we have been back about Goggins Lane.”

After nearly two hours of public comment, Representative Nicholson was given a chance to respond.

“On the lack of trust and accountability: I can not repeat it enough, the planned urban development zone is truly the best weapon you have against us to hold us accountable,” he said. “Your own ordinance does it for you; we have chosen the zone that is the hardest to develop because we want to be held accountable.

“We want to build and make sure we build the project we say we are going to be building. We aren’t saying don't worry in any way, shape, or form. We literally chose the one zone that we have to prove our stuff, or you get to take it away from us, and boom, we are back to ag.”

Commissioner Brandon Powell made the motion to approve the annexation and zone change as presented in accordance with findings of fact. Commissioner Eugene Estelle gave a second.

The board unanimously approved the recommendation to annex and change the zone to planned urban development and agriculture.

Commissioner Chris Childers, the final yes vote, told the room full of people, “We do listen. Although the outcome may not have been what everyone wanted, we do listen.”

The recommendation will now go before the Richmond City Commission, who meet Wednesday, June 9 at 6 p.m.

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