The workshop brought together the magistrates, members of the Lincoln County/Cedar Creek Planning Commission (P&Z), and the Lincoln County Industrial Board, as well as the county and commission attorneys, the county engineer, Crab Orchard's mayor, and members of the community who have had business before the commission.
To say the least, everybody learned something. Gilbert began by telling the group how the commission came about; explaining, that to create the Cedar Creek Lake, the Army Corp of Engineers required the county to have a planning commission. To this day, one of the commission members represents the watershed area. When the commission was established Stanford declined to join, having established its own board. "The Hustonville City Council voted to participate, but the decision was vetoed by the mayor," said Gilbert. The City of Crab Orchard utilizes the commission, but the city council votes on all P&Z decisions.
The judge said that the commission continues to be important because, in most cases, the county is required to have P&Z to be eligible to even apply for a grant, much less secure one.
When it came time for the magistrates to speak David Faulkner broke the ice asking about "the elephant in the room," P&Z decision to rezone at the request of the Allen Company. Commission attorney Jeff Ralston explained the legal basis for the decision, saying that the Allen Company had a very strong case because the property in question had been used as a service station for 10 years. Kentucky law allows for zone changes if a property is improperly zoned. Typically, a service station is zoned commercial, but again, Kentucky law allows it to be zoned light industrial, another factor that favors the Allen Company. Ralston said, "They did everything our ordinance required, line by line."
Doug Gooch, a local engineer, suggested that residents and magistrates get more involved. P&Z's Rhonda Brown assured the magistrates that adjoining residents are always notified by certified, return receipt mail of hearings to change zoning. She accepted a suggestion that magistrates be sent the commission's monthly agenda so they could stay apprised of proposed changes in their districts. "Too often, the first time a magistrate hears about a change, it's from a constituent."
One question that routinely surfaces, and it did again Tuesday night, is the price of building inspections. Magistrates inquired why P&Z charges the same amount to inspect a house as they do a deck. The fact is, they don't. The fiscal court set the inspection rate at $250, and the amount is collected for services performed by the county's Building Inspection Department, not P&Z.
Not everyone left the workshop satisfied, but it went a long way to increasing understanding about an important government function. Gilbert said, "I probably should have called this meeting a long time ago."