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The sight of construction equipment moving dirt on the proposed site of Brentwood subdivision is leaving some Crestwood residents uneasy.
While neighboring property owners say construction is taking place prematurely, representatives for Oldham Farms development say they’re acting within the law – even though they risk losing money.
Brentwood is a 345-home subdivision proposed at Clore Lane and Spring Hill Trace in Crestwood.
Plans for the subdivision have stirred controversy among residents of neighboring Spring Hill and Briar Hill subdivisions since the developer proposed the first plan – with 500 homes – in 2004.
During the past five years, plans for Brentwood have spawned several lawsuits, appeals and numerous planning and zoning
Planning commissioners denied the fourth and most recent plan for Brentwood subdivision in June 2008.
Although developers list five roadways to access Brentwood subdivision – Clore Lane, Springhill Trace, Sunset Lane, Sunset Circle and Shady Dell Lane – residents continue to cite traffic concerns and the impact of heavy equipment on Clore Lane and Spring Hill Trace.
Drivers currently must use Clore Lane to reach three of those roads – Sunset Lane, Sunset Circle and Shady Dell Lane.
Developers agreed to widen part of Clore Lane and offered a 12-acre land donation to Oldham County Schools.
Spring Hill residents say they first noticed construction crews working at the site in November.
They say they’re shocked construction is taking place while the case is still under appeal.
Sheri Betz, president of the Spring Hill Homeowners’ Association said she saw construction beginning early last month, and developers have moved land where the main road for the subdivision will go and began blasting. More recently, neighbors have seen the beginnings of piping work.
“They’ve been working sun-up to sun-down every day,” Betz said.
In July 2008, Oldham Farms filed a lawsuit against the planning commission asking a circuit court judge to overturn the commission’s ruling. The commission and Oldham Farms entered into an agreed order. Then commissioners scheduled a special meeting where they met in closed session, settled the suit and reversed their original decision.
Since then, residents of Spring Hill and Briar Hill subdivisions filed suit against the commission, individual commissioners and Oldham Farms Development. In their case, the neighbors claim the commission “wrongfully overruled” its prior denial of the subdivision plan. In the suit, neighbors also claim the plan doesn’t meet the county’s subdivision regulations or road capacity ordinances.
Neighbors also claim the commission’s special meeting to overrule their previous denial of the plan didn’t follow proper procedure.
Betz said she’s surprised how long it’s taken to get a ruling on the case. She and other neighbors say they believe developers are being disrespectful by starting construction.
Attorney Virginia Snell of Wyatt, Tarrant and Combs, the firm representing Oldham Farms, said developers have every right to start work.
“There is nothing to prevent (Oldham Farms) from moving forward with development,” she said. “It does so at its own risk, but under law, they have the absolute right to do it.”
Snell said when a plan complies with regulations, commissioners have no choice but to approve it. She said Oldham Farms’ plan is a good one and developers have made changes in response to the three plans for Brentwood denied during the past five years.
In Oldham Farms’ response to the complaint, the developers claim that “overwhelming undisputed evidence at the hearing” – where the plan was approved – “established that the plan satisfied all subdivision regulations.” Because all regulations were satisfied, the developers claim, approval of the plan is mandatory.
The developers claim complaints of traffic issues are unfounded and cite information presented at the planning commission hearing.
They also cite their offer to allot more than $300,000 for road improvements to help with the additional traffic the subdivision would bring.
Jim Horn, a resident of Clore Lane in Crestwood – next to the proposed subdivision – said one of the challenges to Brentwood is in terms of capacity the road can handle.
“There are trucks running up and down this road,” he said, “40-foot trailer trucks driving 30 to 40 miles an hour... exactly the issue residents were raising.”
Attorney Michael Tigue represents 11 residents in the suit against Oldham Farms. He said the case is still in circuit court and despite the fact there has been no resolution, developers have begun work on the property. The appeal the residents filed, Tigue said, is to determine if the commission’s decision to overturn their denial is legal.
“(The developers) have elected to take a gamble of going forward in what I believe is an arrogant display of total disregard for the judicial system, political apparatus and neighboring community,” he said.
If the judge rules to overturn the decision, Tigue said it will put the court in a difficult situation – the court will have to decide whether or not to make the developers restore work they’ve started to do to the property.
“In my opinion, that’s what I think they’re trying to do, seize the ground while they can,” Tigue said. “The right remedy would be to restore the property to the original condition.
Oldham Farms owns the property, Snell said, and if the decision is overturned again, the developers won’t recoup the money they’ve already spent on construction. She said the developer has done the right steps, though, and cites an undisputed traffic study from the hearing and the developers plan to make several road improvements while building the subdivision. Everything being done now, she said, is consistent with the plan the planning commission approved.
“The bottom line, to me, is that it seems fair if we have regulations in place and a landowner is complying with the law, and those regulations, they should be entitled to go forward,” she said. “How long does someone wait once they’ve gotten the green light?”
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