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Dillard Road subdivision denied by planning commission

A plan to develop more than 100 houses on a parcel along Dillard Road across from a possible future elementary school is dead for now.

After lengthy discussion in a meeting held via Zoom teleconference, the City-County Planning Commission of Warren County voted 9-0 Thursday night to deny the rezoning application of property owner Michael Overfelt and the Lexington Pointe LLC headed by Steve Cherry and David Brady.

The development plan calls for shoehorning 116 single-family residential lots onto a 41.5-acre parcel that is near the Claiborne Farms and The Summit subdivisions and across Dillard Road from a 20-acre site that could be the home of a Warren County elementary school in the future.

A number of nearby residents joined the Zoom meeting to oppose a development plan they see as incompatible with the neighboring subdivisions and problematic along the narrow Dillard Road and the intersecting Bettersworth Road.

Residents like Robert Unseld of Calumet Court pointed out that the plan to build 1,700-square-foot houses on property that would have a density of 2.79 dwellings per acre simply isn’t compatible with nearby developments that generally have larger homes and densities closer to one dwelling per acre.

“The density differential is very substantial,” Unseld said. “That’s something we need to consider before we move forward. This is a fundamentally different type of neighborhood.”

Joye Beth Spinks, an attorney speaking on behalf of one of the neighboring property owners, raised concerns about the narrow road and the development’s possible impact on groundwater in the area.

“The people out here are not opposed to any development, but this is far beyond anything they would have expected,” Spinks said.

Kevin Brooks, the attorney representing the developers, pointed out that the possible building of a school would force improvements to Dillard Road. He also said the development conforms to the county’s Comprehensive Plan that encourages density where sewer is available.

Although the 20-acre parcel across from the proposed development has been owned by the Warren County Board of Education for more than a year, development of an elementary school could be years away.

“We bought that property in December of 2019 for planning purposes,” said Chris McIntyre, chief financial officer for Warren County Public Schools. “At this point, the new Rich Pond Elementary School will have room for 800 students, larger than a typical elementary school, so we feel like we have some time before we have to build.”

The application to rezone the 41.5 acres from agriculture to single-family residential was voted down unanimously, but other actions taken at Thursday’s meeting could lead to more housing in the fast-growing county.

A rezoning application expected to lead to as many as 204 apartments being built on a 15.7-acre site along Cherry Farm Lane near the Cumberland Trace Road-Scottsville Road intersection won unanimous approval.

The application to rezone the property from agriculture and highway business to multi-family residential was brought by Fawbush Properties LLC headed by James Spears and A Himalaya KY Properties headed by Chandubhai Patel.

Brooks, representing the developers, said the development would have a mixture of one-bedroom apartments of 600 to 700 square feet and two-bedroom apartments of 950 to 1,100 square feet.

He said the plan calls for a clubhouse of about 2,000 square feet and possibly a swimming pool.

The rezoning will go to the Bowling Green City Commission for final approval.

A nearby residential development, in a narrow vote, was approved for changes aimed at better addressing current housing needs.

Carter Crossings LLC, headed by developer Michael Vitale, was approved for a development plan amendment that will allow him to reduce the minimum home size from 1,800 square feet to 1,400 in a portion of a 198-acre development behind the site where a new Cumberland Trace Elementary School is being built.

The property is part of a project originally put together by developer Luke Williams in 2018. That plan called for up to 62 single-family lots that are classified in the most-restrictive RS-1A category and for up to 250 lots classified in the RS-1C category that is less restrictive.

Vitale, who has taken over the development from Williams, applied for the reduced square footage in the RS-1C portion.

Attorney Chris Davenport, representing Vitale, said the change is simply a reflection of demand in the real estate market.

“There is a significant demand for this size home,” Davenport said. “As the developer started to build this out, the demand in the market changed.

“We’re not changing the design requirements, and there’s no request for additional lots. It’s a perfectly reasonable request.”

Some residents living along the adjoining Shaker Mill Bend Road or in the nearby Cumberland Ridge subdivision don’t agree.

A few, like Jan Perkins of Shaker Mill Bend Road, joined the Zoom meeting to urge denial of the application.

“Lowering the square footage would detract from the value and beauty we have here,” Perkins said. “I don’t understand why they need to change.”

Perkins argued that statistics from the Warren County Property Valuation Administrator’s office don’t back up the contention that the smaller homes are in greater demand.

Vitale, who has developed or is continuing to develop hundreds of homes and apartments in the Bowling Green area, replied: “I can’t quote statistics, but I can tell you that today in Bowling Green and Warren County there’s tremendous demand for homes of this size.”

Vitale’s application was approved in a 5-3 vote, with commissioners Sandy Clark, Debbie Richey and India Unseld voting no while Velma Runner, Dean Warren, Tim Graham, Rick Starks and Shannon Blackburn voted to approve. Commissioner Mary Vitale abstained.

The planning commission on Thursday also approved an amendment to a development plan that will allow packaged liquor sales and fast-food restaurants on a commercial development just to the south of South Warren High School on Nashville Road.

The application made by the Woodland Station Development LLC headed by Kyle Shirley will also allow a greenhouse/nursery business.

“In trying to market this property, the developer found some interest from a fast-food restaurant and from a nursery,” said Davenport, representing Woodland Station Development.

The application passed 9-0.

Another development, this one along Cumberland Trace Road, also received approval for a development plan amendment that could lead to liquor sales.

C-Trace Flex LLC was approved unanimously for an amendment to allow packaged liquor sales on 4.5 acres at 280 and 288 Cumberland Trace Road.

Zach Williams, C-Trace Flex’s registered agent, said: “I have a liquor store that has put in an offer to buy one of the units.”

Williams said the development is currently home to a lawnmower sales and repair store, a fitness center and a hair salon.

Potentially the largest development on Thursday’s agenda was not heard by the commissioners.

The Magnolia Hills LLC headed by Renee Isaacs and property owner J & P Ballance Farms filed to rezone 97.8 acres just south of Buchanon Park on Nashville Road from agriculture to single-family residential in order to develop 330 single-family lots.

That application was withdrawn and hasn’t yet been rescheduled.

For young adults with autism, LifeWorks at WKU offers community

Back when he was attending Western Kentucky University, Andy Arnold had a home on the Hill. He made the Dean’s List, the President’s List, aced an independent study course and was president of the Religious Studies Club and the university’s Quiz Bowl team.

But after he graduated in 2019, there weren’t a lot of ready-made paths for someone on the autism spectrum.

That changed when he was invited to join LifeWorks at WKU.

“It’s a place that’s truly mine, and that’s a very new and interesting feeling for me,” Arnold said of the two-year LifeWorks Transition Academy, which is offering housing to young autistic adults who crave independence and employment.

Based in a renovated apartment complex behind the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex at WKU, LifeWorks is the only program of its kind in Kentucky.

Through LifeWorks, Arnold has an apartment of his own, where the 27-year-old enjoys cooking and tidying up. Asked what he personally wants to get out of the program, Arnold said he wants a job, a shot at living on his own and “standing up on my own two feet.”

“I think that there’s a lot of misconceptions about autism,” Arnold said. “I think there’s a social norm that autistic people are expected to just conform to the whims of our normal society. And after people turn 18, they’re often at the mercy of their family or the system at large. And there’s very little support system for autistic adults.”

About 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with autism, though currently 85% of college graduates with autism are unemployed or underemployed, according to national data.

Through its Transition Academy, LifeWorks is offering a 32-course curriculum designed with young adults with autism in mind. They get help with finding a job, the skills they need to support themselves and a community of peers going through the same experience.

“The focus of the Transition Academy is that they come for two years and they receive instruction, but they also have experience in business here, whether it’s an internship or a job, preferably the goal is employment,” said Mary Lloyd Moore, who helms the Clinical Education Complex as its executive director.

“So they’ll be able to work at whatever in whatever job capacity they want. They’ll be able to live in their apartments and in the community. They’ll be able to engage in community activities and give back to the community through the volunteer aspects,” Moore said.

Post-pandemic, LifeWorks at WKU is looking to grow. It has enough capacity for 28 residents.

“We realize that it’s going to take us a year or two or three to reach that capacity, but we’re confident that we will,” Moore said. “We’re hoping to be a model program for other communities because we know that what’s going on here really is going to be an asset for the individuals and a reassurance for families that their loved ones are on the path that they choose.”

Horse Cave communitywide Easter egg hunt a welcome sight

HORSE CAVE – A large crowd of children and their families spent their Saturday morning participating in Horse Cave’s annual community Easter egg hunt that featured more than 5,000 eggs for the taking.

The event was a welcome sight for the community. It was canceled last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With proper health and safety guidelines followed, the hunt was back on this spring thanks to the sponsorship of Horse Cave Baptist Church, The Way Church and Horse Cave First Baptist Church.

Those in attendance were first treated to a message and skit that concentrated on the religious aspects of the Easter holiday before they participated in the large egg hunt.

The children gathered as many eggs as they could in hopes of gathering dozens of “prize eggs” spread out in the field. The event took place on city property in downtown Horse Cave.

“The first year we did this we had 500 kids who came out,” Horse Cave Baptist Church Pastor Kevin Denton said. “It’s a way for the churches to come out into the community. This focuses on the resurrection of Jesus, but we of course have the egg hunt as well. It’s something safe for the kids to do, and we also get the gospel out as well.”

Denton said the city was a large help in planning the event. The local fire department provided a generator to power music and audio while the city blocked off the adjacent street for safety reasons.

Sanitizing stations were also made available for the community along with individual hand sanitizers for children who took part in the hunt.

According to The Way Church Pastor Paul Grider, Saturday was another step toward normalcy for Horse Cave as the ongoing pandemic begins to weaken.

“We’ve been doing the lockdown thing and the social distancing thing, and I think it’s important for us to come together as a community,” Grider said. “We are still maintaining the things we have been asked to maintain. It’s just huge for these kids to finally come outside and have some fellowship with each other.”

However, young egg hunter Wyatt Ballew participated in the event for slightly different reasons.

“I’m here to get candy and to get the prize eggs,” Ballew said with a smile. “I had a lot of fun, and I’ll be coming back out next year.”

Man pleads guilty in Allen robbery, slaying; will testifiy against co-defendants

SCOTTSVILLE – One of three men accused in an Allen County home invasion robbery that turned deadly has pleaded guilty and will testify against his co-defendants.

Sevonte Sumpter-Bey, 21, of Brownsburg, Ind., pleaded guilty Tuesday in Allen Circuit Court to charges of murder, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and tampering with physical evidence in connection with the May 7, 2019, death of Justin Wix, 47, who was found shot outside his home on Stinson Lane.

Allen County Commonwealth’s Attorney Corey Morgan said Sumpter-Bey accepted a plea agreement recommending a 22-year prison sentence in exchange for truthful testimony against his co-defendants, Derek Lucas, 22, and Rylan Wiles, 19, both of Brownsburg.

Lucas and Wiles are each charged with the same offenses as Sumpter-Bey.

Morgan has filed a notice of intent to seek life without parole for both Lucas and Wiles.

According to prior testimony and court filings, Lucas and Wiles declined to give statements to Kentucky State Police detectives investigating the death of Wix.

Sumpter-Bey, however, agreed to speak with police, and his information enabled law enforcement to press charges against all three men.

Morgan said Sumpter-Bey’s police statements motivated the prosecution to seek his cooperation at a future trial for his co-defendants.

“One of the main reasons we wanted to get (Sumpter-Bey’s) case resolved was so he could provide testimony against the other defendants,” Morgan said.

Morgan filed a motion Thursday to consolidate the cases against Wiles and Lucas and have them tried by the same jury.

Their trials are currently set for July 9.

Police had little information about Wix’s death in the weeks after they responded to his address and found his body.

KSP Detective Jonathan Johnson testified in a 2019 preliminary hearing in Allen District Court that an Indiana juvenile contacted KSP about a month after the shooting and claimed to have information about the incident.

The juvenile reported overhearing Lucas, Sumpter-Bey and Wiles boast of their involvement in the shooting, Johnson said.

Police traveled to Indiana and located the three men, and Sumpter-Bey implicated himself and his two co-defendants during a police interview, according to Johnson.

“(Sumpter-Bey) indicated that Lucas had traveled to Wix’s house previously and saw that Wix had a pretty substantial amount of money and drugs,” Johnson said at the preliminary hearing.

Lucas was familiar with Wix’s residence from an earlier visit with Sumpter-Bey’s uncle, Johnson said.

Sumpter-Bey detailed to police that he dropped a knife as he kicked open the door to Wix’s camper and did not realize it until he had left the scene.

Sumpter-Bey disclosed that he and Wiles forced their way into the camper, while Wix exited through another door and saw Lucas, Johnson said.

“(Wix) saw Mr. Lucas, recognized him from being there previously, apparently realizes what’s going on and shoots either at Mr. Lucas or up in the air,” Johnson testified, going on to say that Lucas ran back to his vehicle.

Sumpter-Bey identified Wiles as the person who shot Wix, Johnson said.

Court records indicate Sumpter-Bey claimed a gun was taken from Wix’s possession after the incident, and that firearm, along with the gun used to shoot Wix, were thrown in a creek in Indiana.

Johnson testified last year that a cellphone number registered to Lucas pinged at a cell tower near Wix’s residence on the day of the shooting and a car registered to Lucas was photographed at a toll bridge spanning the Ohio River at the Kentucky-Indiana border on the morning of Wix’s death.

The detective also said Lucas was characterized as “basically the organizer” of the robbery plot and recruited Sumpter-Bey and Wiles to participate.

FILE - In the July 31, 2020 file photo a statue of a Confederate soldier sits outside the Parker County Courthouse in Weatherford, Texas. As a racial justice reckoning continues to inform conversations across the country, lawmakers nationwide are struggling to find solutions to thousands of icons saluting controversial historical figures. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)