Building for the future: Construction projects underway

February 23, 2024

Building projects are continuing at a brisk pace in Berea, according to a report from city officials.

Assistant Codes and Planning Administrator Brian Reed provided an update to the Berea City Council Tuesday, noting that work to demolish the old Holiday Motel, located next to Cracker Barrel, has begun.

A new Starbucks coffee outlet, in addition to other shops, is currently proposed for the property.

Additionally, Reed noted that the four-story Berea College Computer Science, Digital Media and Information Technology building is moving forward, along with significant expansions at Motor Wheel, and a 100,000 square-foot renovation at Hitachi. Plans for replacing the college’s Edwards Building are also under review to replace the existing facility with a three-story residential facility, Reed said.

Residential property is also being built in Berea, including the start of construction for 58 new homes in Stoney Creek Subdivision, according to Reed. Additionally, a 112-unit apartment complex in the same subdivision will be starting soon, and they are also reviewing a preliminary plat for 102 single family homes.

Housing in Berea is in high demand, as 15 of 16 apartment buildings at Harvest Commons near exit 77 are already taking occupants, with approximately 60-70 percent of the units rented, Reed estimated. Each building has a capacity of 12 and 16 apartments, respectively. Construction of new townhomes on Oak Street has also started.

In other business, the council heard the first reading of an ordinance for an amended mid-year budget for fiscal year 2023-2024.

The estimated fund balance as of July 1 is $18,889,000, total revenue projected at $17,728,000, total expenditures $19,995,000, revenue under expenditures estimated at $2,166,000, and an ending fund balance of$16,722,000. As usual, the administration overestimates how much the city will spend and under estimates how much revenue it will receive, which typically results in budget surpluses at the end of the fiscal year.

Mayor Bruce Fraley thanked Berea City Administrator Rose Beverly and Finance Director Susan Helton for their efforts, but also praised city department heads for their continuing efforts to find ways to cut costs.

“The level of planning, detail and transparency with council and the public over the last six, seven months is incredible,” Fraley said. “I compliment Rose for her leadership in this process and also we’re very lucky to have an outstanding finance director on the budget in particular, but in management in general.”

The council also voted 4-3 to amend the zoning classification at 688 Scaffold Cane Road from B-1 minor business to B-2 major business, allowing the vape shop to sell alcohol. In a January 23 Berea Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, proponents of the measure argued the proposed change is appropriate because the county referendum to approve alcohol sales spurred significant cultural and economic changes in the area.

Ronnie Terrill, Steve Caudill, Katie Startzman and Jerry Little voted for the zone change, with Cora Jane Wilson, Teresa Scenters and Jim Davis casting dissenting votes.

“The problem I have with it is it is right in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” Davis said, noting that all other alcohol sales in the city are in commercial districts.

Teresa Scenters said she also had reservations, since Scaffold Cane Road has a lot of pedestrian traffic, particularly from Berea College.

“I agree with him about the residential neighborhood. But I also have some concerns about the conditions of Scaffold Cane Road,” Scenters said.

Davis encouraged citizens to speak up in the future if they have concerns about a proposed zone change.

“When there is a zoning change proposed in your neighborhood, come to the planning and zoning meetings to voice your opinion,” Davis said. “I think it’s very important for planning and zoning to hear from the citizens and the neighbors of the adjoining property. I just encourage you to come and participate.”

The council welcomed Amanda Dube to the business meeting to give an update on the activities of Habitat for Humanity for Madison and Clark County. Dube, who is the executive director for the organization, expressed hope to form a partnership with the city to possibly acquire acreage and build habitat housing.

She noted habitat has partnered with the City of Winchester, which has helped facilitate the purchase of property and build infrastructure for six new habitat homes.

“We would love to start a conversation with the City of Berea about a partnership that we can forge for families in Berea to empower them and help them find that kind of stability,” Dube said.

Concerning the Madison County EMS Board, Mayor Fraley announced the reappointment of Lesha Hays for another two-year term, praising her dedication and good work on the board.

Turning to future infrastructure, the council approved a resolution extending an agreement with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for the 2026 completion of a shared use path on Ellipse Street. The measure was approved unanimously.

The next Berea City Council meeting is scheduled for March 5.

phil malicote