A hard look at Lincoln: City seeks to redevelop dilapidated block

Published 11:49 am Thursday, April 6, 2017

City officials have taken the first step in a project which could bring new housing to a block on Lincoln Street.

Tuesday evening, the Winchester Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to hire a consulting firm to prepare the application for a community development block grant for the project.

City Manager Matt Belcher said the block between Flanagan and East Hickman streets has been discussed by the Urban Renewal Board for some time as a possible redevelopment project. If approved, the project could encompass up to 30 properties along the block. Presently, there are a number of vacant lots and abandoned homes. Belcher said those living along the street would be offered relocation assistance, or could receive their lot back with assistance to rebuild.

The scope of the project is yet to be determined, he said, and the application deadline is Aug. 1. The maximum amount for a CDBG is $1 million.

“We may have to do this one over several years and several phases,” Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner said.

The goal of the project, he said, is to build safe low- to moderate-income housing along the street.

The Commissioners voted to hire Kriss Lowry and Associates from Scott County to prepare the application for the federal program. The CDBG would fund demolition, property acquisition and relocation benefits, she said.

For the project to work, Lowry said the city would need to obtain all the property within the block. The city may have to use eminent domain to obtain property in the case of abandoned property or not being able to locate all the heirs for a piece of property, she said.

A few of the existing structures on Lincoln Street could be renovated to meet code, she said, but not many.

“Obviously most of these are suitable for demolition,” she said.

Belcher said the Urban Renewal Board pledged up to $10,000 for the application process.

“I think (the project) is a splendid idea,” Commissioner Rick Beach said.

Later in Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners also voted to set a Monday deadline for the contractor for a Washington Street drainage project to get back on site to make progress on the project.

In October, the commissioners approved a contract with DMH Construction to repair a long-standing drainage problem among several homes along the street. Commissioner Shannon Cox said the project is still not complete and he’s tired and embarrassed for the residents of the area.

“I don’t know what we have to do but we have to do something,” Cox said. “One property owner said she’d never give an easement to the city again. One of the ladies up there said ‘Please put our yards back the way they were and we’ll deal with the water.’ We took a project that was a six or seven on the misery scale to residents and we’ve made it 150.”

Belcher said the project has been extended partly because of winter weather, but also because they found a spring under the property. It has taken time to design a drain for the spring, he said. Though the winter has been mild, there has not been a long enough stretch for the property to dry so workers can finish.

Brian Ward of Palmer Engineering said the scope of the project changed following the discovery of the spring. There will also be a change order coming before the commission about the project. Ward said he was on site with the contractor last week for more preparation work.

Cox made a motion for the contractor to be on site by Monday and do what could be done, but withdrew it after receiving a second from Magistrate Kenny Book. Burtner then made the motion himself and, after Book seconded again, it was approved unanimously.

In other action, the commissioners approved a resolution for J&T Munitions as it prepares to add 15 to 20 jobs. The city agrees to waive its share of the occupational tax for those new employees for up to 10 years.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@bluegrassnewsmedia.com or call 859-759-0051.

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