• John McGary, Woodford Sun Editor

Versailles council meets with ,U-Haul reps, others, U-Haul acknowledges listing shopping center for


The Feb. 6 special meeting of the Versailles City Council took place in the shopping center at the center of the subject of the meeting: whether U-Haul should be allowed to bring indoor, climate-controlled storage to the old Kmart building. The 4 p.m. meeting began without a quorum, but 14 minutes later, Councilmember Laura Dake joined Councilmembers Ken Kerkhoff, Mike Coleman and Gary Jones (co-owner of the Versailles Brewing Company, which hosted the meeting). They and City Attorney Bill Moore were joined by Councilmember Fred Siegelman at 4:27 p.m. Also at the meeting were Anthony Jones, U-Haul’s area vice president; Chris Minnich, U-Haul’s marketing company president; Lexington developer Steve Reach, and the two most persistent opponents of U-Haul’s requested zone change: Joe and Dee Gay, who operate JPG Rental and Storage, an indoor, climate-controlled storage facility on Thomas Lane. Reach told the group that he’d developed lots of shopping centers and found they all needed a strong anchor tenant, saying the equation was a bit like junior high school: “It you come to the dance, I will.” Anthony Jones said U-Haul wants to combine Reach’s resources and theirs. Reach said his company is considering a purchase of the Kroger building. Kerkhoff asked whether Reach had any possible tenants in mind. Reach said Peddler’s Mall was a possibility. At issue is whether the council will approve a zone change that would allow indoor storage in the shopping center, which is zoned B-4 (highway business). The Board of Adjustment has ruled that indoor storage is not an approved use in B-4 districts, and the Gays pointed out that their storage facility is in an I-1 (light industrial) district. Dee Gay said U-Haul knew the zoning laws when they purchased the property, and officials shouldn’t have assumed they could change them afterwards. Kerkhoff said he’d listen to the company’s proposal if U-Haul can find a fulltime tenant for the old Kroger building. Anthony Jones said the company didn’t intend to ruffle feathers, but acknowledged, “We made some mistakes.” Minnich said, “We’re trying to find tenants you want.” Reach reiterated that retail tenants want an anchor, and said indoor storage in the Kmart building would bring lots of foot traffic and provide that. He said his company made a bid for the Lexington Road Plaza (which Anthony Jones said U-Haul bought at auction) but fell about $500,000 short, and that if he’d bought it, he could have torn the Kmart building down and built a hotel. (U-Haul bought the property in 2017 – the Holiday Inn Express & Suites across Lexington Road opened in August 2018.) Kerkhoff asked Anthony Jones what U-Haul would do if the council doesn’t pass a zone change. Jones replied that they haven’t crossed that bridge yet, but later said the company has listed the shopping center for sale. Jones said U-Haul has approached Rural King – which he said also bid on the shopping center – but that Rural King has no interest in leasing. Reach said tenants feel “the last thing I want to do is be in a center with a big, empty box.” Someone has to be in Kmart, he added. Jones and Minnich said U-Haul has tried very hard to lure tenants to the Kroger building, and would be willing to take a loss on its sale. Jones said the company would even allow Tractor Supply to lease the Kroger building, even though that company’s rentals of equipment and propane would compete with U-Haul’s business, which is presently limited to truck rentals and moving supplies. In response to a question, Moore said the council could vote to request the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission to hold hearings on the matter, but the nearly hour-long meeting ended without any action. Mayor Brian Traugott and Councilmember Mary Ellen Bradley did not attend. Last year, Traugott considered a deal in which he’d back U-Haul’s request in exchange for the company’s guarantee of finding a proper tenant for the Kroger building. He later backed off that idea, and at last month’s state of the city address, said, “We should not be asked to make decisions while being held hostage by an out-of-state outfit that was foolish enough not to read the zoning ordinances before buying a property with the intention of converting its use.”

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