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Ghent Mayor William Mumphrey informed the city commissioners at the June 12 meeting that the time had passed for them to approve any candidate for the zoning administrator position on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
“Mayor, I don’t think that’s right,” Commissioner Kenny Barr said, referring to the city’s own ordinances regarding appointments.
Mumphrey then quoted Kentucky Revised Statute 100.147, which states: “Vacancies on the planning commission shall be filled within 60 days by the appropriate appointing authority. If the authority fails to act within that time, the planning commission shall fill the vacancy.”
“Go ahead, run with them,” Barr said to Mumphrey, referring to the P&Z. “You’re going to anyway.”
City Attorney Alecia Hubbard, however, said the mayor’s interpretation of the statute is correct and said the statute supercedes any city ordinances in place.
“I didn’t make the law,” she said. “But it’s there to empower a city to run and do its business. Right now, the city is crippled.”
Without a zoning administrator, the city cannot enforce its zoning ordinances.
The debate over who would fill the position began in April. On April 11, during its organizational meeting to elect officers, P&Z nominated its chairman, Karen Browning, to be zoning administrator. But when the nomination was brought before the city commissioners for approval, it was rejected.
During a special meeting April 23, P&Z then nominated resident Jack Duncan for the post – a candidate Mumphrey had recommended.
That nomination, too, was rejected by the city commissioners, who opted instead to post a sheet in public where interested residents could sign up to be considered for the job. The sheet was posted at the Ghent Post Office until June 12, the day of the commission meeting.
Only two people signed the sheet – Duncan and Lonnie Mefford.
David Hendren, who attended the June 12 city commission meeting as a representative of P&Z, told Mumphrey his commission would call a special meeting to appoint a zoning administrator.
The zoning administrator position has been vacant since last fall, when Hendren stepped down after two residents filed a lawsuit over a citation he had issued to them.
In the citation, Hendren said Gary and Cheryl Nohner were in violation of city zoning ordinances because they were parking their commercial semi-tractor trailers on a residential lot they owned. The Nohners have a house on the property, but do not live there.
Hendren stated in the letter that parking commercial semis there violated the city’s permitted use of residential property.
In the suit, filed in September, the mayor and the P&Z commissioners are named as defendants. Browning and Hendren are cited as defendants both as individuals and in their capacity as city officials.
Among other things, the lawsuit contends that Hendren was not legally appointed to the post in the first place, and that the city’s zoning map does not line up with Hendren’s interpretation of the boundaries between residential and commercial zoning districts.
Though the citation eventually was overturned by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals, the lawsuit is still pending.