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Project highlights need for planning, zoning in Carroll Co.

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By The Staff

The liquid asphalt storage facility on the drawing board for development just south of Prestonville could very well be the “poster child” for why we need planning and zoning in Carroll County.

Yes, we said that nasty word: Zoning. We know – there are those property owners who don’t want anyone saying what they can or can’t do with their property, what they can build on it, or where and how to build it.

But clearly, without any kind of zoning laws outside the city limits of Carrollton, and patchy zoning in the outlying cities, residents are at the mercy of any company that buys property with plans to build.

About nine months ago, Louisville Paving Company Inc. bought 80 acres of land just outside of Prestonville. It’s mostly bottomland and located in the flood plain. Residences aren’t permitted there, but apparently it is OK for industrial use.

The property, which sits just over a half-mile down the Kentucky River from Point Park, is where the company plans to build a terminal for barges to bring shipments of liquid asphalt to two giant storage tanks that will be built on approximately five acres of that property. The plans have received the green light from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has reviewed the project.

These tanks each will hold as much as 2.5 million gallons of the liquid asphalt. William B. Dougherty, president of the paving company, says there will be maybe one or two barge shipments arriving at the terminal per year, and that the facility will operate mainly from April to November.

Until recently, the only people who knew something was up were the people who sold the property to the paving company. Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson was aware of the project, as was Carrollton City Council.

We don’t know who else was aware. The Louisville office of the Army Corps did send out public notices allowing a window for public comment from Sept. 19 to Oct. 18. According to an official there, the Corps is not required by federal law to publish any such public notices in newspapers of counties where they are planning projects. In fact, the Corps is not obligated to send out notices to anyone but adjoining property owners and anyone who happens to have signed up for the Corps’ mailing list.

Additionally, the Corps is not obligated to hold a public hearing on any of their projects, even if a hearing is requested by someone from the public during the comment period or even from local government agencies.

Carrollton City Council has, rightly, requested a public hearing with the Corps, despite a plea from Dougherty to drop it.

The reasons given for why the Corps doesn’t usually hold public hearings are that they are costly and time-consuming, according to Greg McKay, a Corps project manager.

In a letter to Mayor Dwight Louden, Doughterty asked that the city rescind its request for a hearing because – gasp – a public hearing could draw folks who may be angry and possibly misinformed about a project, and the meeting may get “rancorous,” he said.

Doughterty further stated that anyone wanting a public hearing with the Corps needs “a better reason than, ‘I just don’t like it.’”

Well, we think that anyone wanting to build that kind of industrial-type facility so close to a mostly residential area and a popular destination for water recreation, including bass fishing competitions needs a better reason than, “Because we want to.”

Granted, this facility could turn out to be the next best thing to sliced bread for the county and its residents.

But think long and hard, Carroll County. Do you really want industrial growth a stone’s throw from residential areas in Prestonville and Carrollton and from Point Park and one of the state’s hottest bass-fishing locations?

Because without comprehensive and carefully planned zoning laws governing the use of land within the county,  there will be nothing to stop this from happening. And if one of these facilities is built on our beautiful Kentucky Riverfront, it’s a safe bet more will come.