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Monday, February 1, 2021

Wilder Planning Recommends Map Amendment for Condo Project—With a Condition


Wilder City Adminsitrator Terry Vance discusses the proposed Overlook at Sunrock development at a Planning and Zoning hearing on a map amendment request.

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

The first hurdle for a proposed condominium development adjacent to Bentwood Hills Condos has moved ahead. Wilder Planning and Zoning held a public hearing this week and approved a map amendment request from the developer, but approval carried a condition that work underway by Sewer District 1 (SD1) is completed prior to the start of any construction.

Chair Orest Melnyk reminded those present that the hearing was to consider a map amendment only. If approved, there would be many more approvals needed for the development plans going forward.

Grand Communities, LLC, an affiliate of Erlanger-based Fischer Homes requested the map amendment to change a mix of residential zones on 58 acres off Bentwood Hills Drive to an R1B zone with an RCD overlay. This would allow for a higher density than what the current zones allow. The current area allows only two units per acre, and the developers plan to build 238 condominium units, bringing it to 6 units per acre.

The justification for the change request is that the area is undergoing major improvements by SD1 that would alleviate some of the initial problems that led the area to be designated for lower density. Flooding and storm water runoff has been a chronic problem in the area around Three Mile Creek. The developers claim, and city engineers agree, that improvements by SD1 will significantly change conditions in the area, a criteria that would allow a change in zoning under Kentucky law.

What is proposed

Amanda Webb, for Grand Communities, presented the plan for the site. The Overlook at Sunrock development would include 17 buildings, each with 14 one- and two-bedroom high-end condominium units, as well as an amenity building with pool and fitness center. Each condo would be between 1,000 and 1,600 square feet, cost an average of $200,000, and each unit have a separate entrance. Some, but not all, units would have garages.

Only one entrance to the property is planned, off Bentwood Hills Drive. This entrance would be a public right of way. The drive would include space for off-street parking only that would be maintained by the Home Owners Association (not the city). A full 79 percent of the land would remain open space, Webb said.

Public concerns center on water issues

City Administrator Terry Vance explained that SD1 is under pressure to fix some major problems with flooding and storm water overflow in the area. The agency is now working to address the problem as part of an $11 million project.  As part of the project, SD1 will install an equalization tank downstream and do major upgrades to the sewer lines along Three Mile Road.

It is these improvements that the developers hope will be enough to change the zoning for their project.

About a dozen area residents, mostly from the Bentwood condominiums and nearby Three Mile Road, spoke at the hearing. They underlined that, while they were concerned about things like traffic congestion, flooding is their main concern. It has been a severe problem in the area. With even moderate rains, the creek has flooded and washed out bridges. Overflow of storm water into the sewer lines has also caused backups of debris and waste to flood into yards along Three Mile.

One father said he has asked SD1 for clean up on several occasions, but has received no help. He said he cannot let his children play in the yard where he has found syringes and other contaminated items due to the water issues. Another resident who works at the animal shelter on Three Mile said she it takes very little rain to flood the creek and wash out the bridge on that property.

In addition to the SD1 work, the developer said they do not plan to disturb any of the hillsides on the property, although there are areas where some grading will take place. They are also following engineers’ suggestions to build a large detention basin at one end of the property. Runoff from all units would be directed into the detention pond that would be designed to hold water and release it slowly back into the creek to avoid water surges.

Orangetheory Fitness Newport Pavilion. 

Does the map amendment meet the criteria?

The question commissioners must answer before voting, said Melnyk, was does the map request meet the criteria laid out in Kentucky law that allows for changes in the zoning map? Is the map amendment justified?

The first question, he said, is the map amendment consistent with the Comprehensive Plan? The answer to that is no, not as it is now, he said.

Kentucky Law allows for a map amendment changing the zoning if at least one of these criteria are met:

  • If the current zoning classification is not appropriate, and is the zone that is being proposed appropriate?
  • Have changes in conditions happened since the Comprehensive Plan that have substantially altered the area since the plan was adopted?
The developer claims that both these criteria have been met. The SD1 work addresses many of the issues that led the area to be designated low density, and now more units can be built on the property as long as the improvements are made such as the detention basin in addition to SD1’s work.

Vance said he had three concerns and it appears they have mostly been met. With concerns about Three Mile Road, this development utilizes Bentwood Hills Drive instead. The sanitary sewers and water overflow appear to be being addressed by SD1. The detention basin proposed by the developer, working with engineers, looks to address water issues on the property itself.

It was noted during discussion by commissioners as well as the public that much of the developer’s plans are contingent upon the SD1 work. Vance said he is confident that SD1 will complete the work, but the developer does "hang its hat on that work."

With that said, the commissioners decided they would like to add a condition onto any approval of the map amendment that the SD1 work must be completed first. A motion, including that condition, was approved by the commissioners voting five to one.

A recommendation for the map amendment with the condition will now pass to the Wilder City Council for a vote. If approved, the developer can bring forward a development plan for review with Planning and Zoning.

Timeline, if all goes well, is still long. It is expected that due to the SD1 work coming along first, that the earliest the developer could start if plans are approved, would be end of summer 2021 with completion near the beginning of 2022.

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