Residential growth in southern Warren County just hit a new gear.
The City-County Planning Commission of Warren County on Thursday voted 7-0 to approve a rezoning expected to lead to development of a 532-lot subdivision on 263 acres bordered by South McElwain Road and Nashville Road and wrapping around Chaney’s Dairy.
That vote came after a 10-1 vote (with city of Woodburn representative Shannon Blackburn voting no) to change the property’s Future Land Use Map designation to low-density residential. Only city of Bowling Green and Warren County representatives were eligible to vote on the rezoning.
If given final approval by Warren Fiscal Court, the development would add to a 300-lot subdivision in the works next to Buchanon Park on the other side of Nashville Road and continue a building boom that has transformed the once-bucolic area over the past decade.
Such progress isn’t welcomed by many of the area’s residents, including Chaney’s owner Carl Chaney.
Chaney was among the local property owners expressing concerns during the meeting about the development on property owned by the Leon Tarter family.
“We felt we needed to speak,” Chaney said after the meeting. “I just hate to see agricultural property disappear.”
The rezoning approved Thursday would change the 263 acres from agriculture to single-family residential and lead to development of houses of at least 1,800 square feet with two-car garages.
He has seen residential and commercial development along the Nashville Road corridor accelerate since the opening of South Warren High School in 2010, but now Chaney will have one of those developments abutting a farm that has been in the Chaney family since the 19th century.
“I’m disappointed, but it’s not my land,” Chaney said. “I’ve been friends with the Tarters for years. We did discuss this with them, and I feel like they’re trying to do a good project.”
Both Leon Tarter’s son David Tarter and attorney Chris Davenport, representing the Tarter family, pointed out during and after Thursday’s meeting that the development plan includes many concessions that make it more palatable.
“It should be nice,” David Tarter said. “We’ve structured it so it will have the least amount of impact on the community and still keep a little bit of the country feel.”
Among the concessions included in the development plan are widening of South McElwain to a minimum of 20 feet from Nashville Road to the farthest entrance into the development and construction of a right-turn lane on Nashville Road into the development.
The development plan also includes the possible installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Nashville Road and South McElwain.
“Tarter has tried to respond to what people have said is wanted in that area,” Davenport said. “This development has a larger home size and is less dense than what has been approved in recent years.”
Such concessions weren’t enough to silence opposition from residents such as Amy Smith, who lives on South McElwain.
“If you drop more than 500 houses in this area, it’s not going to enhance the scenic rural character,” Smith told the commission members. “It will lose its charm, and that’s a big piece of Chaney’s.”
Both Smith and Kentucky Nature Preserves Executive Director Sunni Carr-Leach pointed out that the Chaney property contains a nature preserve that could be disturbed by the development.
“Seven endangered species are known to exist on that property,” Smith said. “Putting 500 homes there will severely hurt their habitat.”
Some protection for Chaney’s Dairy was factored into the application. Davenport said his client agreed to install a fence topped with barbed wire along the property line common with the dairy farm.
The Tarters also agreed to landscape buffers on lots abutting Nashville Road. And, after prompting from Chaney, they agreed to include language akin to the right-to-farm statutes that protect farms from nuisance lawsuits brought by neighboring residents.
“I’ve got friends in the dairy business who, because people complained so much, ended up selling out,” Chaney said. “We suspect it (the right-to-farm language) will help us.”
Despite the encroachment on his farm, Chaney said he has no plans to shut down the family operation that includes the Chaney’s Dairy Barn ice cream and sandwich shop.
“I’m hoping our dairy farm will be here another 100 years,” he said.