Proposal for Boone County industrial park sparks hours of debate: ‘Listen to us, please’

Kaitlin Gebby
Kaitlin Gebby
Kaitlin is a reporter for LINK nky. Email her at [email protected]

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More than 100 residents stood in opposition Wednesday to a proposed zoning change that would make way for a 208-acre industrial development in rural Boone County. 

The hearing for the Boone County Planning Commission lasted nearly four hours, ending just before 11 p.m., as resident after resident told the board their concerns of noise, light pollution, flooding, traffic hazards, and the preservation of Boone County’s rural land. 

The zoning change request comes from NorthPoint Development, a liaison company that builds industrial sights for companies like Amazon, FedEx and General Motors. NorthPoint is proposing the site, located at Logistics Boulevard, Chambers Road and Dixie Highway, near entrances to Interstates 71 and 75. NorthPoint seeks to change the property classification from an agricultural zone to an industrial one to build a multi-building business park called the Greenfield Commerce Center. 

The long meeting and dozens of residents reflect the push and pull county officials are facing when it comes to inviting business development and preserving rural Boone County.

NorthPoint plans to develop roughly 125 acres of the 208-acre area. Phase one of the development includes four buildings, ranging from 201,000 square feet to 448,000 square feet. In the second phase, 11 lots for semi truck distribution will be created, according to the proposal.

The largest buildings are planned near the interstate and include a buffer zone of 80 feet. That buffer zone increases to 130 feet along Chambers Road. The proposal also promises $250,000 to Boone County or the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet “specifically to study and implement modifications to the intersection of U.S. 25 and Chambers Road to prevent trucks from turning from southbound 25 to westbound Chambers Road.”

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The intention is to model the industrial subdivision after Riverview Business Park in Hebron, the developers said. 

This is not the first time NorthPoint has asked for this land. 

The company’s proposal last year to Boone County Fiscal Court would have left a larger footprint, with more acreage developed and smaller buffer zones. Although the Planning Commission approved the proposal with a recommendation to approve the zoning map changes, the fiscal court rejected it. 

Marc Gloyeske, vice president of development at NorthPoint, presented the proposal at the meeting. He said last year’s proposal was denied due to a “discrepancy in the wording of the comprehensive plan versus the zoning map amendment.”

As a result of the denial and some feedback given during that process, he said NorthPoint’s proposal was “a much larger project and scale than what we’re proposing now.”

Gloyeske said the proposal also promises “only light industrial users.” On page 4 of the plan, NorthPoint states it will not allow “obnoxious uses” that would “produce vibrations, odors, dust and smoke.” Gloyeske also said noise impacts from the industrial park would be mitigated by landscape buffers, and light pollution would be minimized by “strategic placement of building, yard and street lights.”

But residents who showed up to Wednesday night’s meeting didn’t think those measures were enough.

First to speak during the two-hour public comment period was Shannon Tomlinson. A lawyer and a resident of Walton, she owns Ellis Farms on Chambers Road, a horse breeding and training facility that she hopes can be the next cultural destination in the region. She said this development would come right up to her property, something she fears may wreck all she has been building. 

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“This development will impact that and come up directly onto my barns, my arena, on two sides,” Tomlinson said. 

Tomlinson speaks at the meeting. Screenshot taken from live stream of Boone County Planning Commission meeting.

She also raised concerns that the development will attract crime, and that the process of leveling the “rolling hills” would require explosives that would further disrupt nearby residents. 

After Tomlinson was Chet Hand, the only candidate running for the District 2 County Commission seat. Hand defeated incumbent Commissioner Charlie Kenner in the Republican primary election in May. 

Hand submitted a video of Kenner speaking in the 2021 fiscal court meeting in which officials rejected the first NorthPoint proposal. At the time, Kenner said he usually agrees with the Planning Commission’s recommendations, but he felt the zoning change from agricultural to industrial was too big a leap. 

“I know we just approved some industrial property along U.S. 25 using Old Lexington Pike as a frontage road. It’s industrial over there because it wouldn’t disturb those people there. They sold their land to industrial people,” Kenner said at the July 2021 meeting. “To put this – because you’re setting it across from these residences … It’s a beautiful area, and we only get one chance to get this right. We cannot mess this up. It’s too important. We’ve got to take care of our neighborhoods.” 

Though there were few items Hand and Kenner agreed on during the primary race, on this issue the two are aligned. 

Another property owner, Charlotte Brewer, said her family bought a 96-acre farm in 1968. She said she used to live in the country, but now “we’re near the interstate, and developers want that.” Brewer was among a group of dozens of residents who said their farms have been a peaceful part of Boone County for generations, and they asked the commission to protect that.

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Tomlinson mentioned her family has owned the Ellis Farm property and lived there for more than 150 years.

“Listen to us, please,” she said. “You’re the only hope we have.”

Comments continued for two hours from residents who complained of the “over-industrialization” of Boone County, arguing that this land is zoned as agricultural for a reason in order to provide a “buffer zone” from the nearby highways.

Hand added that the overdevelopment of Boone County is “the number one issue” he heard from voters on the campaign trail.

By the meeting’s close at 11 p.m., members of the commission were visibly exhausted. At the request of residents, a second hearing was scheduled for Aug. 17. If the proposal passes the Planning Commission, a final vote will once again come to the fiscal court in a September meeting, chairman Charlie Rolfsen noted. Officials will decide whether to recommend the zone change after the hearings have concluded.

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