County officials voted Tuesday to settle a lawsuit with a Boyd County developer, effectively stopping his plans to build a trailer park in Westwood.

Boyd County Fiscal Court voted unanimously to accept an agreement mediated between the county and developer Craig Browning and his wife, Julie. Under the terms of the agreement the county will purchase the land currently owned by the Brownings on the corner of Piqua and Susie Jane Streets in Westwood for $72,500.

The county will be responsible for half the cost, while their insurance company will pick up the other half of the tab, officials said.

The Brownings had planned to construct a 10-unit mobile home park on the land. The development, however, was met with considerable opposition from residents who said it would worsen flooding in their area. They also complained the development could hurt their property values.

The Brownings sued the county in March claiming their project was singled out for discrimination and that officials exercised their power in an “arbitrary and capricious manner” by requiring them to twice seek a flood plain permit to develop the property, which has been determined several times to be located outside the 100-year flood plain.

At the center of the dispute was whether the county had the right to restrict development under the county flood plain ordinance on property that lies outside the flood plain.

The dispute began last October when the Brownings were denied a flood plain permit by the county but appealed to the state Division of Water, which approved their appeal, stating no such permit was needed unless required by the county. The county only requires a permit for property inside the flood plain.

In January the Brownings notified the county of the state’s decision and continued construction. But in February, prompted by resident complaints, the county again moved to require the Brownings to seek a permit.

County officials claimed a broader reading of the flood plain ordinance gave them authority to restrict development on property outside the flood plain where flooding has been known to occur and has been documented.

In addition to testimony from area residents, officials pointed to a video tape of the area under several feet of water, during a flood more than a decade ago, for evidence that the area was subject to flooding.

Craig Browning confirmed Tuesday that an agreement had been reached. “We did agree on a price,” he said, “They made an acceptable offer, effectively stopping our project. I’m not happy about it. It wasn’t our first choice. Our desire was to build the project and provide good decent housing for families in that socio-economic group.”

“For personal and political gain my project was stopped using taxpayers’ money,” he added.

Overall, Browning said the couple has lost money on the project, which has been delayed for nearly a year due to the dispute. The decision was made to settle when compared to the soaring cost of further litigation, he said.

Boyd County Judge-Executive Bill Scott said exactly what the county will do with the land has not yet been determined. He said the county still has some “loose ends” to tie up concerning the agreement and said he expected to know more by the courts’ Aug. 15 meeting.

Commissioner Carl Tolliver, an outspoken opponent of the development, said the county had already been contacted by a school district interested in using the land for a practice field.

Tolliver said he was pleased with the settlement agreement, “I think this is the best decision for the county.”

CARRIE KIRSCHNER can be reached at ckirschner@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.

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