Guest opinion: Use the land we already have

If you think of our little town as a family, it seems lately that we’re a fairly dysfunctional one, especially in how we view the future of Versailles and Woodford County. The line appears to be drawn: those who oppose any development and those who welcome all growth. We suspect the truth for most of us is closer to the middle. In an era where extreme positions are popular, the concept of reasonableness seems rather quaint, but Citizens for Sustainable Community Growth (CSCG) believes it has a reasonable argument against the development of the Edgewood Farm property located on Lexington Road between the new Kroger and Paynes Mill Road. For the record, CSCG members oppose the requested rezoning, annexation and incorporation into the City of Versailles Urban Services Boundary of this property. Many people may be thinking, “Of course they do, and what’s reasonable about that?” It’s not that we just blindly oppose all development in Woodford County. There are 1,377 acres already in the Versailles Urban Services Boundary (USB) that are available for development. This amount of land is adequate to meet the needs of the community’s future growth. In addition, there are significant opportunities for infill within the USB, due to a number of existing empty or underdeveloped properties. This community’s first action should be to develop what we have currently designated before we expand outside of the current USB. This development doesn’t represent smart planning. Annexation and development of these approximately 400 acres is classic sprawl, where expansion of boundaries is done without concern for the consequences. Present consequences include: • Undermining the proposed revitalization of downtown and other existing urban spaces already designated with in the current USB. A development of this type will effectively kill any hope of a vibrant downtown and the opportunity for infill development on existing properties. It will dramatically change one of Woodford County’s most valuable assets: its unique small town character. • Increased flooding in the Big Sink area. The proposed development drains into Big Sink, which has previously experienced excessive and long term flooding due to poor natural drainage in the area. • Negative agricultural/environmental impacts. A development of this size, in this area, will increase traffic congestion, air and water pollution levels and destroy property that is currently designated in the Woodford County Comprehensive Plan as a valuable rural district, a necessary transition zone between commercial and agricultural lands, including an equine preserve. There are probable tax implications for city residents. A large portion of this development is designated residential. It costs more to provide services to residential areas than can be covered by those residences’ property taxes. There is a great likelihood that it will be necessary to levy tax increases on current residents to pay for the additional infrastructure – water, sewer, roads, and schools, fire/police protection, etc. – needed to support a development this size. The risky business of “If we build it, they will come.” This is a huge project for a small town like Versailles. Remember 2008? The last thing Versailles needs is more empty buildings and underutilized properties. And once productive agricultural land is gone, it’s gone. While Citizens for Sustainable Community Growth oppose a development of this size and scope outside of the current USB, it would support zone changes on the 71 acres of this property already within the USB if the proposed development is done in a sustainable manner that supports the unique rural character of our county and contributes in a positive way to the community and our downtown area. For example, at least two recent Woodford Sun articles quoted proponents of the proposed development touting the building of a new hospital. Since the land allocated for the hospital is only 30 acres, why not build it on land already in the USB? Now that sounds reasonable! Wouldn’t you agree? Laura Dake is a board member of Citizens for Sustainable Community Growth.

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