Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What Does The Future Hold For Phoenix Park?

As of the end of November, the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government now owns all of Phoenix Park.

What? Did you just ask me to explain myself?

Phoenix Park is a park which has been there since 1985, first as a temporary park of landscaping and walkways wandering through the back-filled corner property, and then made permanent. The downtown park where we chose to locate our VietNam War memorial alongside a representation of an urban stream. The park where we have placed eternal flame monuments for our fallen peace officers and firefighters. How could we do all of that if we did not own it?

Well, we did own some of it, just not all of it. Now we own all of it.

On April 5, 1985, the State of Kentucky sold the front portion of the area we now know as Phoenix Park to the City. This sale came with a restrictive covenant wherein the LFUCG could only use the property as a public park. The City had for months before been working to make this property presentable for the NCAA Final Four at Rupp Arena that year. Such work had been done on a perpetual easement granted by the State on the remaining property.

So, great, as long as we have an easement things are smooth sailing, right?

Smooth, until the State decides to consider the property surplus. KRS (Kentucky Revised Statutes) 45A.045(4) grants the Secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet the authority to determine that the property is more suitable to the public's interest if utilized in another manner. If so, then the property may be sold.

Utilized in another manner? It has been a cherished park for 30 years now, what other use would part of it be put to? A chain sandwich shop just spent a lot of money opening a storefront onto this park, now what?

Official Order 15-134 from the Secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet has declared the property surplus and directed disposition toward the LFUCG. Great, now it can stay as a park for all of the city to enjoy.

Wait a minute, what is this in the paperwork? Whereas the LFUCG proposes to “utilize the property for a public purpose only, to wit, for the purpose of creating vehicular parking...” Wait a minute, vehicular parking? In Phoenix Park? Where? How?

Remember, this is only the part that the State retained with the easement for the park purposes. But, does the downtown, walkable park really need vehicular parking to operate and maintain it? After 30 years?

Also, the State, in disposing of this property to the LFUCG, included the prior property transferred some 30 years previous “only for the purpose of releasing the restrictive covenant requiring Parcel 14 to be utilized as a public park”. A replacement restrictive covenant requiring Parcel 14 for a public purpose only, including but not limited to vehicular parking. Again with the vehicular parking. Now allowed on all of the Phoenix Park property.

This parking shall be available at all times for use by the general public. Well at least it did not say that it was free parking, just general parking.

Okay, so there is going to be public parking on the Phoenix Park property. How would you arrange it? Will they place some back-in angled spaces along the north side of Water St so that the Panera delivery folks do not have so far to walk to their vehicles? Will it be angled pull-in parking instead? How will this aid the purpose of operating or maintaining the existing park?

There must be more to come.

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