Just three days before the entry into office of a new mayor, the Paris City Commission voted unanimously to grant a free 18-hectare golf course to 650 $ 000 in October to a development group.
On December 28, the commission decided to transfer the Stoner Creek Golf Course to LADC Kentucky LLC, a group interested in building a distillery on the property located across Main Street in Paris.
Dudley Webb, a Lexington developer with Webb companies, signed the act on behalf of LADC.
Webb said his involvement in the group was recent. He signed the closing documents on behalf of the group because no other investor was available to do so, he said. Other LADC investors have not been disclosed. It was incorporated on December 27, according to the records of the Kentucky Secretary of State.
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According to the development agreement and the transfer of the act, the group is not required to pay the city for the property unless it does not build a distillery within three years the definitive change of an area for the property.
The change of zone was approved last year, but the neighbors of the Stoner Creek Golf Course oppose it. If the zone change is reversed, LADC may return the golf course to town.
The closing of the transfer of ownership took place on December 31, a day before the inauguration of new mayor Johnny Plummer. Plummer defeated outgoing Mayor Mike Thornton in November. Two of the city's four commissioners were also beaten in November.
"The city attorney advised me not to discuss this topic at this stage because of the ongoing litigation at that time," Plummer said in a statement to the Herald-Leader.
Under the terms of the agreement, developers are not required to spend a minimum amount for the project nor to provide a minimum number of jobs. A previous group of investors had said that its on-property distillery project would create 75 jobs at an average salary of $ 75,000 and generate annual revenues of $ 40 million.
It is unclear if investors in the initial group are still involved in the project.
In various documents related to the project, the city said that the transfer of property is legal under a state statute that allows the transfer of property at no cost "for economic development purposes". The city also said the project would "eliminate burn in the city."
Daron Jordan, the general manager of the City of Paris, said the city had already chosen to give free real estate to other companies as part of an economic development project.
"This option was used on other occasions by the City of Paris and it was the option that the city commission chose to use as an alternative. part of the properties, "Jordan said.
In response to questions about the timing of the land deal, Jordan said the developers had contacted the city to find out if there was interest in relaunching the project. "When it comes to timing, the elected body has full discretion as to when to act on these and other issues. "
According to the agreement, the city has until December 31, 2021 to finalize the transition from a conservation area to a light industrial area for good. The Wyndamere neighborhood, adjacent to the golf course, appealed the change of zone last year. The joint zoning commission of Bourbon County voted against the change of zone in August, but the municipal commission, which has the last word, voted in favor of the annulment of the commission's decision and approved it.
The city had the option of buying the golf course when the zone change had been approved. It had entered into a confidentiality agreement with an entity interested in purchasing the property but not identifying the potential buyer. The city bought Stoner Creek for $ 650,000 at the end of October.
A group announced in November that it wanted to build the Jacob Spears Distillery on the property. The distillery would also include a restaurant, visitor center, event space and possibly other tourist attractions. But in mid-December, the group moved away, citing the attraction of the neighborhood to change zones, partly explaining why the property was no longer viable.
According to the latest agreement, LADC also plans to install a distillery on the property. The developer has six months after the finalization of the zone change to request incentives. The agreement also states that LADC has three years from the moment the zone change becomes final to carry out the project, but that "the developer is not required to respect or substantially achieve the financial projections. related to the construction layout. completed."
If the project is not "substantially complete" in three years, it will be able to purchase the property for $ 650,000, plus other costs. He can then use the property for something else, even if it must still be used for economic development purposes, the agreement said. Or, LADC can transfer the property to the city and pay some fees – an annual interest rate of approximately 4.25% on $ 650,000.
Tony Mills, who was the only known investor in the original distillery proposal, said he was no longer involved in the project but that he had predicted that the latest distillery project would be a boon. for the city of Paris. Mills said that he could not name the other investors.
"It's going to be really positive for this community," said Mills. "I think a lot of people are rallying behind this project."
Although many Parisians have supported the distillery project, several close neighbors have not yet done so.
John Vance, who lives in the Wyndamere neighborhood and has disputed the city's approval regarding the area change, said he had contacted Jordan, the city's director, and had offered him to. 39 purchase the property from the city after the Jacob Spears distillery group pulled out in November and before. the December 28 meeting.
Jordan said the city was interested in other offers for the field but that Vance had never come back with a final offer.
"Since this meeting, neither Mr. Vance, nor any other entity outside the LADC group, has ever submitted an offer of consideration," Jordan said.
Vance said he and other investors were willing to pay $ 750,000 to the city for the property. The meeting of the Paris Municipal Commission of December 28 was a special meeting. Most citizens did not know it until after, says Vance.
"He had been aware of the proposed transfer of ownership to the LADC group," said Vance, who along with other investors urged the city to consider their offer before the December 28 meeting.
"They took $ 650,000 from the general fund and bought a property and then gave it to a developer," Vance said.
Bruce Simpson, a district attorney for Wyndamere, said he did not understand why the city had been so secretive about the Stoner Creek property from the start.
"It's the most weird set of shenanigans I've ever seen," Simpson said. "If there was an example of how not to plan or zone, that would be an instructive case."
Jordan said the city has done nothing wrong and that the distillery could create essential jobs in downtown Paris.