London city limits may soon extend across Ky. 192 near Saint Joseph London medical plaza and to sections along West Cumberland Gap Parkway in southern Laurel County.

Those two areas were announced during a special-called meeting of the London City Council on Wednesday evening, with the first reading of "Intent to Annex" those two areas passing unanimously by the five council members in attendance. Councilman Judd Weaver was not present for the meeting.

The two proposed annexations are both voluntary, meaning the property owners approached council members wishing to be included in the city limits.

The first area discussed is the property at the intersection of Ky. 192 and Esquire Lane, which is the roadway leading to Saint Joseph London. The property is owned by Elmo Greer and Sons Inc. and Elmo Greer and Sons LLC and is approximately 7.9 acres.

Mayor Troy Rudder said this is a voluntary annexation initiated by the property owners. With the hospital property adjoining the Greer property and a subdivision nearby, the area is prime for future development.

Ditto for the G & M Oil property which is located off Interstate 75 with its intersection with Exit 29 in southern Laurel County. That too is a voluntary annexation by the property owners, who submitted an irrevocable request for annexation, meaning that they can withdraw their request prior to the second reading of the ordinance. That, however, seems highly unlikely to happen as the property owners have requested inclusion into the city voluntarily.

That prompted city leaders to propose the annexation from the London Exit 38 off I-75 to the 11-mile stretch along the interstate to Exit 29 in the southern part of the county. The proposed areas will also include the roadway of West Cumberland Gap Parkway, also known as U.S. 25-E, from the intersection of U.S. 25-South and westward along Ky. 770, for a total of 91 acres.

Rudder and City Attorney Larry Bryson were quick to state that the city's annexation was only the section of roadway between the two exits and the previously named roads. But under Kentucky statutes, proposed annexed areas must adjoin the existing city limits. By annexing the section of Interstate 75 between Exit 38 and Exit 29, the G & M Oil Company will fall under that statute and the voluntary annexation can be completed. Rudder and Bryson again said that only the G &M Oil Company, which once housed a truck stop and still retains a large paved parking area, will be annexed into the city limits. Rudder added, however, that once the annexation is approved, other property owners along those roadways can request voluntary annexation into the city if they so desire.

The property owners of G & M Oil Company have requested the property be zoned as "commercial," although that zoning must be approved by the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, then sent back to the council for final approval. If the measure is approved by council members during a second reading, the ordinance will be published in the local newspaper and will be effective on the date of publication.

In both ordinances, it is stated that neither property is an agricultural area and both properties are privately owned. While the Greer property in London has access to water and sewer service through London Utility Commission, gas through Delta Gas and electricity through Jackson Energy, the southern Laurel property has access to electric through Kentucky Utilities of London and gas through Delta Gas and a private well on the G&M Oil Company. Both ordinances also state the neither section of the proposed annexed areas are currently included in "an incorporated city."

The Exit 29 property, located in southern Laurel County, has long been a debated area of potential development. Several years ago the property owners approached the London City Council with a request to be annexed into London City Limits. At that time, the property owners wanted to develop that area into an in-house race track with a business complex with retail stores and dining facilities. But city leaders in Corbin claimed that some utilities had been provided through their city's expenditures and then proposed that the two cities split the tax revenues from an occupational tax.

The city of Corbin cannot annex that section into their city limits as Kentucky statutes prohibit cities from annexing into more than two counties. Corbin city limits currently extend into Whitley and Knox counties.

Rudder opened the special-called meeting by introducing two attorneys who have worked with the City of London on the annexation - Keith Brown and David Pike. He then commended the council members who pushed the annexation of the two properties.

"I've worked with this council for the last year and a half and we've seen the city explode," Rudder said. "We've had new businesses and new jobs - we've actually got more jobs than we have people to work. We only make up 40% of our work force, with people from other areas coming here to work.

"People move here because they want to be where they can prosper," he continued. "We now have a housing shortage. People want to move here but there are no houses available, even in the pandemic. The council knows that a city can't stand still and they aren't shying away from that."

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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