Guest opinion: Expanding urban service boundary would be a mistake
Woodford Forward is a group of citizens and business owners who advocate for innovative policies that promote the highest and best use of urban land and the agricultural use of productive farmland throughout Woodford County. There are 1,377 acres of vacant land within the Versailles Urban Service Boundary. There are 428 acres of vacant land within the Midway Urban Service Boundary, which does not include the land at the Midway Station Industrial Park that is located at the I-64 interchange. Annexation and rezoning should occur within the existing Urban Service Boundary. It is incumbent upon the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission to consider the Goals and Objectives of the 2011 Comprehensive Plan. The proposed development plan does not comply with the following objectives or the Land Use District of the 2011 Comprehensive Plan: Commercial Development: 3. Enhance the expansion and revitalization of commercial needs within the central business districts of Versailles and Midway. 5. Encourage the reuse/redevelopment of declining commercial areas. Public Use Facilities: 6. Promote an adequate level of public services and facilities through the continued use of the Urban Service/Growth Area concept. Agricultural Use: 2. Protect agricultural land from urbanization and incompatible land uses in order to provide adequate resources for all agricultural production. According to the 2011 Comprehensive Plan, the Land Use District for the subject property is a Rural District: The Rural District General Characteristics - The Rural District consists of all land outside the Urban Service Areas, Small Community District, Agricultural/Equine Preserve District and Kentucky River Environs District. It contains a diverse set of uses, ranging from rural residential cluster subdivisions to farms to crossroads communities such as Troy. The compatible integration of human activities within the rural setting is the focus of this District, and it is clearly intended that the rural character of these lands be preserved. Many of these rural areas are undeveloped due to the lack of public services or have other site constraints. These areas provide many important benefits to the landowner and community such as agriculture, water filtration, flood protection, and wildlife habitats. The use of the lands in this rural district should be primarily reserved for agricultural operations, open space, agricultural tourism activities, and limited low-density residential including in-family conveyances in order to support Woodford County’s agricultural economy, rural landscape, and rural cultural heritage. The Rural District is a transition Land Use District between the Agricultural/Equine Preserve District and the existing Urban Service Boundary. This annexation and expansion of the Urban Service Boundary would negatively impact the agricultural and equine operations along Paynes Mill Road. In addition, the frontage of the property is located within the Scenic Viewshed from Lexington Road (U.S. 60) and Paynes Mill Road, as identified in the 2011 Comprehensive Plan. In 2015, The Matrix Group conducted a survey of 11,128 Woodford County households. Based on 1,463 responses of Woodford County voters, the top three areas of importance are: • Planning for innovative and responsible growth and development within the designated urban service areas of Woodford County. • Preserving the unique characteristics of Woodford County-defined small town centers surrounded by scenic and productive farmland. • Protecting prime farmland for agricultural use. The survey respondents also identified the top priority for Woodford County officials during the next 10 years: • Redevelopment of vacant land and property within the urban services areas. Furthermore, the survey results were that 53 percent of the respondents said that they would vote for a candidate who is opposed to expanding the urban service boundary and would stand against converting more of Woodford County’s farmland for development. The Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission has not held a public hearing to discuss the Goals and Objectives for the 2016 Comprehensive Plan update. It would be imprudent for the Planning Commission to vote to expand the Urban Service Boundary before hearing public input on and adopting the Goals and Objectives, which will guide the next Comprehensive Plan. Furthermore, it would be premature for the Planning Commission to vote to expand the Versailles Urban Service Boundary before they fully examine and update the 2011 Comprehensive Plan in its entirety, and consider all of Woodford County as a whole. Any vote to expand the Urban Service Boundary before the update and the adoption of 2016 Comprehensive Plan will set a precedent and degrade Woodford County’s comprehensive planning process, now and in the future. Woodford Forward strongly opposes this proposed annexation, rezoning, and expansion of the City of Versailles Urban Service Boundary. Woodford Forward understands the need for the proposed new hospital in this community. This development plan proposes a new hospital at the corner of Lexington Road and Paynes Mill Road. By locating the proposed hospital on the corner, this development plan sets the stage for “leap frog” development, between the existing Versailles Urban Service Boundary and Paynes Mill Road. Alternatively, Woodford Forward strongly supports the rezoning of the 70 or so acres of Edgewood Farms, LLC, that is currently within the existing Urban Service Boundary, for professional office uses, which would include a location for a new hospital; and other urban uses that are allowed by the zoning ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan. Billy F. Van Pelt II is CEO of Woodford Forward.