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Hearing set for contested rezoning in Alvaton

The fate of a vigorously contested residential development along Twin Bridges Road in Alvaton could be decided next week.

With more than a dozen residents of the Twin Bridges Road neighborhood turning out for an early-morning meeting, Warren Fiscal Court voted Wednesday to schedule an “on-the-record” hearing on the development for 8 a.m. Jan. 19.

That hearing should determine if the 21.4-acre, 56-lot subdivision proposed by developer Narendrakumar Patel will proceed as planned, be altered or simply be voted down by the magistrates.

It could put to rest a dispute that dates back to October, when Patel’s application to rezone the acreage at 8039 Twin Bridges Road from agriculture to single-family residential came before the City-County Planning Commission of Warren County.

That application was approved by the planning commission, but only by a 4-3 vote after a lengthy hearing during which several neighboring residents voiced opposition to the plan.

The six fiscal court magistrates are also divided on the issue. Their vote on the first reading of the rezoning, originally scheduled for December but delayed until Wednesday while attorneys tried to reach a compromise, was 4-2 for the rezoning.

Magistrates Tony Payne, Doug Gorman, Mark Young and Rex McWhorter voted for the development. Ron Cummings and Tom Lawrence voted against it.

Immediately after that vote, the attorney representing those opposed to the development requested the hearing before the magistrates take a second and binding vote on the rezoning.

“This matter was the subject of an extensive hearing at the planning commission,” attorney Matt Baker said. “Given the narrow margin and the opposition from the neighborhood, we request a hearing on the record.”

County Attorney Amy Milliken said an “on-the-record” hearing means the magistrates will consider only the record from the planning commission hearing and the arguments that Baker and Patel attorney David Broderick will make next week.

Each attorney will have 10 minutes to state their case, and the magistrates will have the opportunity to ask questions.

The magistrates must also view the video record of the October planning commission hearing on the rezoning, a hearing that saw eight residents of the Twin Bridges Road neighborhood speak against the development that is near Drakes Creek and Phil Moore Park.

One member of the opposition, 87-year-old Jo Jean Scott, said scheduling a hearing gives her and her neighbors hope.

Although the proposed development is near the Drakes Ridge, Bates Farm and Poplar Grove subdivisions, Scott and her neighbors argue that Patel’s proposal for 56 houses on 21.4 acres isn’t compatible with an area that has traditionally been rural.

“We’re very hopeful that something can be worked out and that the number of houses can be adjusted down so that it’s more compatible with the established homes,” Scott said.

“We treasure our neighborhood, and we hope what we’re doing will be beneficial for the traveling public. We want something better than row upon row of houses put up indiscriminately.”

Broderick argued successfully at the October planning commission meeting that Patel’s plan to develop houses of at least 1,800 square feet with two-car garages is consistent with nearby developments.

“This doesn’t change the character of the area,” he said.

Baker and Broderick have so far been unable to reach a compromise that would make the development more palatable to Scott and her neighbors, but Milliken said negotiations will continue in coming days with her acting as a mediator.

If no compromise is reached, the magistrates will vote on the existing development plan. However that votes goes, it might not be the end of this rezoning battle.

Milliken said Baker and his clients could appeal to Warren Circuit Court if the magistrates vote in favor of the rezoning. Likewise, Broderick would have the option of appealing if the magistrates vote against his client’s plan.

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.


News
Church service marks one month since tornadoes

One month after a series of tornadoes struck Bowling Green and killed 17 people, Christ Episcopal Church held a Service of Lament and Remembrance on Tuesday night for all that was lost.

Around 30 attendees watched as church leaders led songs and chants while reading passages from the Bible on the subjects of grief and loss.

The Rev. Becca Kello of Christ Episcopal Church told the crowd that while the community has faced death, pain and fear, God remains with them all.

“The hurt and the pain of our common lives right now is real and physical for some,” Bello said. “It’s emotional and spiritual for others. For many, it’s a mix of all the above. Grief is the undercurrent of our community right now. Tonight, we mourn the lives lost to the deadly tornadoes that swept through our town, and we also share a common grief.

“Here is what I know about grief: We will never be the same,” she said. “This has changed us. We will become different people than we were. We have to agree that we are a community of people that has been through a natural disaster. And God will stay with us.”

The service included the Apostle’s Creed and Lord’s Prayer before a final blessing and hymn closed the service.

Throughout the event, many in the congregation rose and lit candles.

One of those participants was Bowling Green resident Jim Dale, who said his home was spared from any massive loss.

“I came out to honor and remember those who lost their properties, those who lost their lives and those who lost family members,” Dale said. “I’m also here for all those who are in grief.”

The Rev. Steven Pankey of Christ Episcopal Church said the church hosted a similar service after businesses began to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic after he saw a need in the community to reconcile the pain.

“We wanted to remember how the entire community suffered through this storm,” Pankey said. “Hopefully, we can move forward. One of the things Americans have a hard time with is naming our grief. This type of service gives people a chance to acknowledge their grief before they try and move forward. Moving forward too quickly doesn’t really work.”

Pankey said Christ Episcopal Church and other churches would work together for similar services.

– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.


News
Grand jury to get case of post-tornado shooting

A Warren County grand jury will hear the case against a man accused of involvement in a shooting hours after tornadoes ripped through the area.

James Elijah Tankersley, 20, of Corbin, faces a charge of first-degree assault in the Dec. 11 incident in which William Gibbs suffered a gunshot wound in the leg during a disturbance at a construction site near Russellville Road and Veterans Memorial Lane.

Tankersley’s father, James Finley Tankersley, 44, of Bowling Green, was charged with second-degree assault and first-degree wanton endangerment in the incident, and his case has already been forwarded to a grand jury.

James E. Tankersley appeared Wednesday in Warren District Court for a preliminary hearing.

Bowling Green Police Department Detective Ryan Dillon testified that he was at Russellville Road and Veterans Memorial Lane monitoring the streets for traffic in the aftermath of the tornadoes when he heard a call over the radio about 4 p.m. Dec. 11 regarding a fight that had broken out on Cornerstone Avenue, a new street in the area where an apartment complex was planned for construction.

After later radio calls referenced a person with a gun and someone with a gunshot wound at the scene, Dillon traveled to the site, where another BGPD officer had applied a tourniquet to Gibbs’ leg.

“I think, if it wasn’t for the tourniquet, this would be a different story, is what medical personnel later advised me,” Dillon said.

Dillon said he spoke first with a woman the detective said was either Gibbs’ girlfriend or wife, who related that she had traveled with Gibbs to the complex site – which is an investment of theirs – to check for damage following the storm.

The couple encountered a 2014 Cadillac at the site and, in trying to drive around the vehicle, sideswiped it, Dillon testified.

James F. Tankersley reportedly called police, who were stretched thin because of the disaster response and couldn’t come to the scene, with Dillon saying the dispatcher told Tankersley to exchange information with the people in the other vehicle.

The exchange between James F. Tankersley and Gibbs became a physical confrontation, with the elderly Tankersley picking up a board while Gibbs directed his girlfriend or wife to retrieve his firearm from the vehicle, Dillon said.

“She stated that the father was the aggressor,” Dillon said.

After retrieving the unloaded, holstered firearm, James E. Tankersley reportedly took it from her, unholstered it, chambered a round and fired, Dillon said.

Before Gibbs was sent to an area hospital, Dillon spoke with him.

“All he said was, ‘How are you going to beat someone up after you shoot them?’ ” Dillon said.

James F. Tankersley is accused of striking Gibbs with a broken piece of wood while he was lying on the ground after being shot, court records show.

Dillon said he spoke to two Atmos Energy employees who were at the site and witnessed the disturbance and heard the gunshot.

The detective said he asked the workers if, based on what they saw, there was a reason for someone to shoot someone in self-defense, and the employees responded they saw no reason for someone to have been shot.

Questioned by James E. Tankersley’s attorney, Alan Simpson, Dillon testified that James F. Tankersley reported being bitten on the thumb by Gibbs during the altercation, and the elderly Tankersley had a “substantial bite mark” on his thumb.

James E. Tankersley gave a statement to police in which he said he shot Gibbs in the leg because he did not want to fire at Gibbs’ chest or head, Dillon said.

James E. Tankersley is currently free on a $10,000 cash bond. James F. Tankersley remains in the Warren County Regional Jail under a $10,000 cash bond.


News
Students slam bills limiting classroom discussions around race, sex

Parents and educators have made their voices loud and clear about so-called critical race theory and what topics of discussion should be off-limits in Kentucky classrooms, but now students are having their say.

In Frankfort on Wednesday, members of Kentucky’s Student Voice Team – a student-led education advocacy group – participated in the “Stop the Teacher Gag Bill Rally” to oppose House Bills 14 and 18.

The students joined Defenders of Accurate History, a coalition of educators from across Kentucky, which organized the rally in the Capitol Rotunda.

The two bills, which both feature similar language and provisions, would codify limits on classroom discussions and instruction related to race and sex.

House Bill 14, in particular, would pose a potential $5,000 penalty to be withheld from the school district in the event of a violation “per day from the date the notice is issued through the date the Attorney General determines the violation is remedied.”

Both bills can be viewed as a response to criticisms of critical race theory, even though the bills do not mention the concept explicitly.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass has said the state’s department of education isn’t aware of any school districts specifically teaching critical race theory, and “neither CRT nor terms associated with it appear in our state’s standards.”

Arivumani Srivastava, a Gatton Academy senior recruited from Greenwood High School, is a member of the Kentucky Student Voice Team and planned to participate in the Frankfort rally Wednesday. Throughout his entire K-12 career, Srivastava said he had never heard the term “critical race theory” used in a classroom.

Describing his opposition to House Bills 14 and 18, Srivastava said they would chill free speech in the classroom and allow politicians to micromanage school culture.

“Teachers are already walking on eggshells” during discussions about race, Srivastava said.

He said the legislation would “steer teachers totally away from very valuable conversations about the role that race plays in our world today.”

Specifically, the bills would prohibit instruction – and even discussion “formal or informal,” in the case of House Bill 18 – promoting the following concepts:

  • One race, sex or religion is inherently superior to another race, sex or religion.
  • An individual, by virtue of his or her race, sex or religion is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
  • An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race, sex or religion.
  • Members of one race, sex or religion cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race, sex or religion.
  • An individual’s moral character is determined by his or her race or sex.
  • An individual, by virtue of his or her race, sex, or religion, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, sex or religion.
  • Any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, sex or religion.
  • Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist, sexist or oppressive or were created by members of a particular race or religion to oppress members of another race or religion.

House Bill 14 goes further, prohibiting instruction including or promoting the following concepts:

  • The Commonwealth of Kentucky or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist.
  • Values, moral or ethical codes, privileges or beliefs can be assigned to a race or sex or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex.
  • Promoting or advocating the violent overthrow of the U.S. government or promoting division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class or class of people.

Srivastava said the language in the bills is vaguely worded and that “the legislation is going to be hard to implement” faithfully and generally “hurtful to the classroom environment.”

He said students should learn that race is not taboo “but something that should be talked about constructively.”

Further, in Srivastava’s view, lawmakers should seize on a record budget surplus this year and fund perennial education priorities like full-day kindergarten, universal pre-K and support for students’ mental health needs. Generally, they should focus on giving every student in Kentucky the best education possible, he said.

“I just don’t see how that’s happening with this legislation,” Srivastava said.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.


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