Berea City Council hears from Farristown residents about zoning, passes road resurfacing resolution

·6 min read

May 21—Citizens of Farristown in Berea went before the the Berea City Council on Tuesday to request more public input on proposed zoning changes in the area.

In the 2020 Comprehensive Plan, the Farristown area of Berea is being rezoned as an industrial area. During the meeting, several citizens expressed their thoughts on this change and how it impacts the historic community of Farristown.

"Residents of Farristown are coming to you today with a simple request," Wendy Warren said before council members."They are the people most affected, and ask that before you make any zoning decisions or move ahead with any plans, that you share those plans with them and that you give them the opportunity to share information with you. The best decisions are made after considering the impact of the decision from all sides. Additional perspectives can only be helpful."

Grace Mackenzie of Berea shared that while she trusts the council wants the best for Berea, she wants the council to ensure that Farristown residents are heard.

"I also know that our visions for what is best may differ," Mackenzie said. "There are reasons why people want industry — for many, it means jobs, jobs mean paychecks, paychecks mean tax dollars. But for the neighbors of industry, it also means noise, air pollution, more traffic and a decreased home value and for many who live in Farristown, an impact on their home place; the place that has seen generations and generations of their families."

Farristown is also a historic neighborhood with a long history of Black residents. Farristown — founded in 1855 — was settled by a Black family named Farris.

"Will we be a Berea that listens to folks who have been historically marginalized? Or will we continue to push folks to the margins?," Grace asked.

Marylin Martin, a current resident of the Farristown neighborhood, shared she was raised in the neighborhood.

"But think about it. You would not want this coming to your neighborhood," Martin stressed. "Why do you want to destroy ours?"

She also shared several experiences of where the damaged wooden bridge impacted the response time of first responders when she contacted them during emergencies. Martin said they had to take a longer route because the wooden bridge is unusable, but should be prepared.

Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley said the city is lobbying state officials to prioritize the bridge's repair. However, as the mayor noted, the bridge is on a state road, which is the responsibility of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Council member Katie Startzmen shared in a video on her Facebook page the Berea City Council will be having a "listening session" for concerned citizens and the residents of Farristown who want to share their thoughts on the rezoning. Startzmen said that more details of the session would be shared soon, but that it will be held within a couple of weeks.

Three proclamations took place during the meeting, including Building Safety Month in May 2022, Older Americans Month in March 2022, and National Public Works Week. National Public Works week was designated as May 15 through 21, by Mayor Fraley.

"I urge all citizens to join with representatives of the American works Public Works Association, and government agencies in activities and events and ceremonies designated to pay tribute to our public works professionals, engineers, managers and employees and to recognize the substantial contributions they make to protecting our national health, safety and quality of life," Fraley said.

The public works bid recommendation from Roy Curtis was to accept the bid from Valley Farm Equipment of a 2020 Massey Ferguson 5711 D tractor with the mower for $127,000, and the motion was passed.

There was also recognition of the American Public Power Association Reliability award to the Berea Municipal Utilities Electric Division.

John Fox, president of Friends of Boone Trace, on behalf of Eastern Kentucky Pride urged the council to pass resolution #5-2022. The resolution regards national heritage area designation which was passed later in the meeting by the council.

"The National Park Service is evaluating the feasibility of including Kentucky wildlife as defined by 41 counties of Appalachian into the National Heritage heritage areas system," the resolution reads.

The council also passed resolution #06-2022, a "Rural Municipal Aid Agreement." This resolution will take effect immediately.

"Whereas the city of Berea has determined that various roads within the city are in need of resurfacing. And whereas the Commonwealth of Kentucky Department of Transportation Cabinet department of rural and municipal aid has determined that the project is worthwhile who is willing to reimburse the city up to $300,667.80 in state funds for the completion of the project. And whereas the city of Berea desires to accept the state funding on the terms and conditions as set out in the agreement between the city and the department," the resolution reads.

The first reading of ordinance #09-2022 which regards re-zoning 1620 Menelaus Road. Several council members expressed concerns about the rezoning and its impact on citizens.

"I just feel a real sense of responsibility, the weight of this and the impact of this is definitely going to have a community and I just know before I was a council member, even it's hard to know how everything works," Startzman said. "And when we're coming to meetings twice a month and we know and we've been talking about it for months. It's like second nature to us but as a citizen looking in from the outside it can feel very opaque."

In the city administrator's report, Rose Beverly asked the council to approve the overage of $10,450 for engineering services for the industrial fund, which passed. Beverly also shared several events happening in the community including the groundwork for the CIP road infrastructure infrastructure plan which will begin next week, the L&N Train day in June,

"Berea Cares is sponsoring an event called 'Hooks and Heroes;' the groups involved in putting on this event included every police department, the Berea Fire Department, Madison County, EMS and bluegrass Army Depot. Volunteers and personnel will take our local youth fishing in order to mentor and learn from them," Beverly said.

All youth will be given a rod and reel to keep and all donations were provided by the Berea Police Association, Beverly said.

During council comments, each member thanked the citizens who spoke during public comments.

"I really am grateful for the opportunity to hear from so many folks who are concerned and interested in how our city grows and I feel so lucky to hear from you all and I look forward to continuing our conversation," Council member Startzman said during council comments.

"Thank you all for coming out. Thank you for speaking your hearts," Council member John Payne echoed.