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GHENT, Ky. – The Ghent City Commission met in special session Thursday, Oct. 9, to decide on a variance request by Gary and Cheryl Nohner.
By the end of the meeting, they discovered they had no jurisdiction in the matter.
An attorney for a property owners Wayne and Diane Young cited in the Kentucky Revised Statutes that as a legislative body, the commission can only enact zoning and land-use ordinances.
Dale Willson of Skees, Wilson and Dillon in Florence, Ky., said that the commission has no legal authority to make changes or exceptions to the ordinances it creates.
That’s the job for a board of adjustments, Wilson said.
Ghent has a requirement for a board of adjustments, but no active board.
In order to settle the issue, the city will have to appoint members to the board. Otherwise, Wilson warned the Youngs would have grounds for a lawsuit against the city, should the commission vote on the matter.
After examining documents presented by Wilson, city attorney Jason Baute advised the board to table the matter.
Wilson’s clients, the Youngs, owners of the Ghent House bed and breakfast at 401 Main St., oppose any variance that would allow the Nohners to put a new double-wide mobile home on the lot she and her husband own at 405 Davis St. The Nohners purchased the mobile home, intending to have Cheryl’s mother, Janet Taylor, live there.
Nohner applied for the variance because she had miscalculated the setback for the mobile home. Davis Street, which runs between Ann and Fishing streets on the north side of Main Street (U.S. Hwy. 42), is actually an alley rather than an official city street.
The distinction means that Nohner’s measurements, starting from the middle of Davis – which would be her property line if it were a street – were 7 feet short of the established setback requirements.
“This started innocently enough when we purchased the property from Dennis McCormick over a year ago,” Cheryl Nohner said. “I have done some things wrong, but when I have been told, I have corrected those things. I don’t feel I was given all the information I needed in the beginning, and it seems the city commission keeps changing the rules. I am trying to improve the area not demolish it.”
The Youngs oppose Nohner’s plan, because they said it would put the double-wide near their gardens.
“I feel it will bring down my property value,” Wayne Young said.
The 20-page document submitted by Wilson presented several reasons why the Youngs oppose the variance, including the setback issue and their claim that the double-wide will be located partially in a flood plain. The Youngs also claim the Nohners are buying the property on an unrecorded land contract.
“Years ago the city made me build my cottage [behind the bed and breakfast] up on the hill because of the flood plain, and the city has turned down several other people from building in the flood plain,” Wayne Young said.
“If that happened it was years ago under a different mayor, a different board and a different city clerk,” said Bulinda Willis, Ghent city clerk. “I don’t know where those records would be.”
Additionally, Wayne Young added: The Young’s property is currently on the market and is listed for $419,000.
A visit to the property, however, shows that the location of the Nohner property, where footers are already in place a for double-wide does not sit directly behind the Ghent House, and appears to be visible only from a few windows of the Young’s home and business.
Sharon Graves is staff writer for The News-Democrat. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.