Controversial Villa Hills land deal can move forward, council rules

VILLA HILLS, Ky. -- City Council members voted 4-2 Tuesday night to approve a land deal that's enmeshed nuns, neighbors and a land developer in controversy over its potential impact on the small community.

The Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery hope selling an 85-acre parcel of vacant land to Ashley Commercial Group will help finance older sisters' retirements, and Ashley Commercial Group plans to make it the site of a four-story, 187-apartment luxury housing complex. 

"We recognize that change can be threatening," Sister Mary Catherine Wenstrup said in January. "We also know that to live is to change. We believe that Sanctuary will provide a variety of housing opportunities for current and new individuals and families."

The only thing dissenting residents such as Peggy Henn want, however, is for Villa Hills to remain the small, quiet community in which they have built their lives. 

Henn said Tuesday night she worried the deal and subsequent construction would create traffic problems and fundamentally alter the character of the town.

"We are very passionate about who we are and how we feel about our community, and I just think it's very disappointing (city council members) are not seeing this in the way the people see this," Henn, who has lived in Villa Hills for 22 years, said. "I love Villa Hills, and I hate this is happening to my town."

City Council member Greg Kilburn, who voted in favor of a zoning change that would make the deal possible, said he recognized both sides of the debate were sincere in their convictions, but he had to make the decision he believed was best.

"I did what I thought was the right thing to do for the city," he said. "I don't have the luxury of thumbing my nose at the Kentucky Revised Statutes."

A prior version of this story misstated the vote as 6-2 in favor of the deal. In fact, it was 4-2.

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