A judge has thrown out a controversial zone change of the former Stoner Creek Golf Club in Paris for a proposed distillery.
In a decision released this week, Bourbon Circuit Court Judge Jeremy Mattox wrote the Paris City Commission’s decision to approve the zone change was arbitrary and not supported by evidence.
The nearly three-year saga began in 2018 when the city of Paris secured an option to purchase the 47-acre former golf course. The city applied for a zone change from conservation to light industrial. During the zone change process, the city did not disclose what business or type of business the city was trying to lure to the property.
The Paris-Bourbon Joint Planning Commission voted Aug. 16 to deny the city of Paris’ request to rezone the property after hearing widespread objections from neighbors.
On Aug. 30, 2018, the Paris City Commission voted unanimously to approve the zone change. At that hearing, a list of reasons was read. There was no discussion before the vote.
Mattox said the commission’s reasons — or findings of fact — were vague and unsubstantiated. The Paris City Commission also violated the public’s due process rights by failing to disclose what the land was going to be used for until after the zone change was approved.
The Paris City Commission’s “involvement was beyond familiarity with the facts or simply taking a position on the outcome. They found the property to purchase and found a company to build on that property, all while being secretive about their intent and disregarding the voice of the public and the planning commission,” Mattox wrote.
Members of the Wyndamere neighborhood, which adjoins Stoner Creek, filed the lawsuit in December 2018.
Bruce Simpson, a lawyer for the neighbors, said: “My clients are obviously quite pleased with the judge’s well-reasoned decision.”
Jeffrey Mando, a lawyer for the city, said a decision has not been made on whether the city of Paris will appeal.
“I am disappointed in the ruling but have not had the opportunity to discuss it with the city commission,” Mando said.
Simpson said since the zone change has been overturned, the property will revert to its former zone, conservation.
Still outstanding is the Wyndamere neighborhood’s claim that their civil rights were violated when the city officials pushed through the zone change. A motion to have those claims dismissed is pending, Mando said.
Meanwhile, no construction has started on the former golf course property. In January 2019, three days before a new mayor and two new city commissioners took office, the Paris City Commission deeded over the 48-acre property to a private development group. The group will not have to pay for the property if it builds a distillery within three years, according to the sale documents. The city spent $650,000 to purchase the property.