Officials from Harrodsburg and Mercer County will meet to discuss planning and zoning.
The City of Harrodsburg Board of Commissioners agreed to the meeting after hearing complaints from Art Freeman Monday night.
While Freeman complained about several issues—including parking, dilapidated buildings and what the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Tourist Commission does with restaurant and lodging taxes—he took issue with planning and zoning in Mercer County. More specifically, with Shawn Moore, the executive director of the Greater Harrodsburg-Mercer County Planning and Zoning Commission.
“He’s taken it upon himself to say yes or no before it gets to the board of adjustments or planning and zoning,” said Freeman, a former member of the board of adjustments.
Freeman said he was told a Steak ‘n’ Shake franchisee looking to locate a restaurant in Harrodsburg was told by Moore to go to Danville.
Reached at his office for comment on Tuesday, Moore said he had been approached two years ago by someone who wanted to convert two different locations in Harrodsburg, the former Christian bookstore near Walmart and the Dishbarn, now Triple Crown Wine and Spirits. Moore said he never directed the person to Danville, but to other undeveloped sites here in Mercer County. Moore said that, as far as he knows, the person had never actually approached Steak ‘n’ Shake about purchasing a franchise.
“Why should I send anybody away?” Moore asked. “I’m trying to get people in here.”
In the last two years, Danville has gained a Cattleman’s Steakhouse and a Starbucks, but the closest Steak ‘n’ Shake is still the one in Frankfort.
Freeman also complained about Moore’s attitude towards builders.
“He’s extremely intelligent and probably very capable, but he’s difficult to deal with,” Freeman said of Moore.
Some commissioners seemed to agree, in whole or in part, with Freeman’s complaints. Commissioner Marvin “Bubby” Isham said many contractors are afraid to complain about Moore’s attitude with the planning and zoning board for fear of repercussions.
Commissioner Scott Moseley said he’d also heard complaints that Moore is impossible to reach. Moseley said he’d been told it costs $2 per square foot more to build in Harrodsburg than it does in surrounding cities, which he attributed to planning and zoning.
However, Moseley said there is a limit to what the city can do.
While the city and county appoint members to the planning and zoning board and provide funding, they cannot, under state law, fire Moore, nor can they defund planning and zoning. Nor could they appoint a member to the board with the express intention to vote to fire Moore.
Opting out completely from planning and zoning is also an unattractive option. Under state law, any government that backs out of comprehensive planning and zoning is unable to enact zoning regulations of their own.
“We have our hands tied,” Moseley said.
Mayor Eddie Long and Commissioner Moseley will meet with Judge-Executive Milward Dedman and Magistrates Tim Darland and Ronnie Sims to discuss what can be done.
This is not the first time planning and zoning has become a flash point. Back in 2016, the county, city and planning and zoning commission discussed waiving building permit fees for one year, among other issues. Ultimately, the officials agreed to allow contractors paying more than $10,000 in building fees to pay in installments with a 25 percent down payment.
To learn more, check out this week’s issue of the Harrodsburg Herald.