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Friday, February 14, 2020

Alexandria Planning and Zoning Recommends Plan for Mixed Use Development

Alexandria residents packed the recent Planning and Zoning meeting to discuss a proposed multi-use development.

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

After a public hearing held February 4, the Alexandria Planning and Zoning Commission approved a zoning change request that, if passed by the city council, will clear the way for a mixed used development along Alexandria Pike.

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The change turns a 69-acre area along Alexandria Pike from a R-RE (Residential Real Estate and Agriculture) to a Planned Unit Development or PUD. The PUD designation requires an accompanying plan for the property, so the commissioners also approved a development plan for the site at 7541 Alexandria Pike that will include a 366-unit apartment development and three commercial properties.

RELATED: Alexandria Will Review Zone Change Request for Mixed Uses in New Development

At the start of the public hearing for the zone change, City Attorney Mike Duncan outlined the process for the zone map amendment: After a presentation from the applicant, the floor would open up for public comment and questions, followed by deliberation and a decision from the commission.

He emphasized that the criteria for making a zone map amendment requires the applicant to show how the current zone is inappropriate and why the proposed zone would be appropriate. The development plan must be in keeping with the comprehensive plan.

The developer’s proposal

JR Kendall of Kendall Property Group presented his development proposal for apartments and commercial spaces to the Alexandria Planning and Zoning Commission.

The application for the zoning change came from Indiana-based Kendall Property Group. Owner JR Kendall presented the plan. He opened with some information about the company, which was started as a third-party construction company in 1988.

In 2005, the company moved into developing its own properties, focusing on multifamily projects. It has two projects in Northern Kentucky, Brookstone Crossing in Cold Spring and the Overlook Project on Turkeyfoot Road in Elsmere.

Kendall explained that the PUD allows for different types of uses within a single property, and it is attractive because it serves two purposes – to create a unified development but also eliminate the sprawling strip commercial development by providing for varied uses within the property.

He noted that his proposal was in keeping with much of what is outlined in the comprehensive plan for the area. The current plan map shows a gas line easement runs through the property for development, the northeast section of the property shows a commercial area with a residential area on the south of the property.

The company is proposing three commercial properties in the northeast section, two would be owned by the Kendall Group and would be used for office or small retail. The seller would retain ownership of the third commercial spot, which is proposed as a potential restaurant.

The residential development proposed by Kendall would be a higher density than what is shown on the current comprehensive plan map. The map requires a density of two to four units per acre, and the company’s plan would include six units per acre, using about 21 acres of the land for the buildings.

Project details and features

The proposed development project by Kendall Group would include up to 366 apartments in 11- and 18-unit buildings.

Kendall cited changes in people’s attitudes about renting that have changed the market since the comprehensive plan was adopted. The market has experienced increased demand for high-end apartment projects that feature luxury appointments and amenities.

The developer further described the apartment project noting the rise of "renters by choice," and the strong market for the project. The project would likely be done in phases, he said, with the first phase 200 units and, if most are rented quickly, the project would roll into the additional units in phase two.

The mix would be 35 percent one-bedroom units, 45 percent two-bedroom and the remaining 20 percent would be three-bedroom apartments. The project has enough parking spaces to meet city requirements of two spaces per unit, plus there will be some attached garages. Rents would run from about $900 for one-bedroom to $1,500 for a three-bedroom.

The development would also boast a club house, business center, fitness room, pool, entertainment area, dog park and outdoor grill, said Kendall.

Working with the terrain and traffic concerns

One challenge the developer faced is the terrain of the property, which is hilly and contains areas where the soil and bedrock will not support development. The company scaled down its original plans to avoid weak areas, putting the buildings on the top of the ridges in more stable areas. This reduced the footprint and the number of apartments to no more than 366 units split into 11- and 18-unit buildings.

The developer also worked out a deal with nearby Arcadia Homes to hook into that development’s sewer line to run up to the Kendall project.

Access to the development would be through a single access lane going into the project and a 600-foot frontage road for the commercial lots. The company worked with a consultant to complete a traffic impact study, which was approved by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The study was based on 440 units, as well as three potential commercial businesses.

Kendall said the study included four intersections: Alexandria Pike and East Alexandria Pike, Alexandria Pike and Enzweiler Road, Alexandar Pike and Poplar Ridge, and Alexander Pike and the development’s entrance. The study was projected out for the years 2019, 2022, 2024 and 2034 with and without the development, he said.

The Transportation Cabinet approved the study but required a southbound turn lane going into the project. The state officials also said the project would not meet the warrants, or standards, necessary to obtain a traffic light at the intersection of the property, but that would be revisited with a new study after the project is completed. A traffic light would be required at Alexandria Pike and East Alexandria Pike.

Concerns for traffic, safety and preserving the view

 Ryan Hall of Broadfield Court expressed concern over the comprehensive plan process and echoed traffic concerns voiced by residents.

Traffic was the main concern for area residents. About 8 to 10 people addressed the developer and commissioners.

"I live directly across from the property and it is nearly impossible at school and work time for me to get out of my house and onto 27, so I’m just wondering how 600 cars, if there are two cars per unit, will get out to 27," said April Ayers, in a comment echoed by about half of those who spoke.

For those living in the area near the proposed development, traffic is already an ongoing concern. Some asked about traffic lights and other traffic calming solutions.

The commissioners responded that, because Highway 27 is a state route, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has jurisdiction over stop signs and stop lights. The developer said he plans to have another traffic study done upon completion of the project and may then qualify for a traffic light.

Residents were also concerned about turnaround distance and safety for school buses and public safety vehicles. Kendall responded the company is working with engineers and officials to ensure space for school and emergency vehicles.

Another issue mentioned by neighbors of the project was the desire to preserve some of the views they now enjoy from their property. A few mentioned the beauty of the land and shared memories of walking in the area.

In describing potential business uses for the commercial properties, Kendall said the company wanted to control for traffic by choosing businesses complimentary to the project with lower traffic volumes — small retail and office space instead of fast food or a gas station.

Residents were concerned that the commercial uses in the PUD be specific and limited. Duncan explained that the approval of the project could include language specifying particular businesses. A developer would have to go through a new public hearing process and get city approval if they wanted to propose a use different from those outlined in the PUD, he said.

Since there had been some confusion on that point, he urged the developer to be very clear and specific about uses for the commercial properties and include it in the development proposal.

Planning and Zoning recommends the zone map change and development plan

After public comment and a short question-and-answer with the developer, the Planning and Zoning commissioners discussed the project and all were in agreement that the new zone would be appropriate and that the development plan was acceptable.

They acknowledged concerns about the traffic, but said that issue is an ongoing problem with or without the development. They noted a new traffic study will be done upon completion of the project, and they would urge city officials to continue to explore ways to address ongoing traffic issues.

The zone change amendment recommendation was passed by the commissioners and now moves to the city council for final approval. They added the stipulation than only low traffic uses be permitted for the commercial buildings and that a traffic light should be added immediately should the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet approve one after the next traffic study.

Zone text amendments for other issues considered

The Planning and Zoning commissioners also voted to recommend a zoning text amendment that would remove car washes from permitted use in the Neighborhood Shopping Center (NSC) zone and the Highway Commercial (HC) zone.

The reasoning behind the change was there are now three car washes open or approved to open in Alexandria. The commissioners echoed a concern voiced by Mayor Andy Schabell that car wash facilities are difficult to convert to other uses should a business leave.

Nathan Atkinson, who is an owner of Blue Roo Car Wash set to open in a few weeks, said if he were to want to expand in the future, the text amendment as originally proposed might limit his ability to do so.

Commissioners decided to keep the existing car washes as permitted but to remove future car wash businesses as permitted uses in the two zones.

Another text amendment passed to unify and clarify language about the height of weeds and grass on properties within the city. City code states that grass and weeds over eight inches tall are considered to be a "nuisance," while in the zoning code, 10 inches and above was considered a violation. The amendment brings all references in line with over 8 inches as a violation of code.

A final text amendment that would allow certain types of mini or self-storage facilities, under specified conditions, to be included in residential 2 and 3 zones, was tabled for further discussion at a future Planning and Zoning meeting.

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