Guest opinion:The natural way to grow
The headline of the front-page story in the Jan. 28 edition of The Woodford Sun regarding the massive new commercial development proposed for the Edgewood Farm confounded me. Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott was quoted as saying that the location east of “Big Kroger” was “the natural place to grow.” I am confident that as an elected official Mayor Traugott tries to choose his words carefully. In this case, I can’t square his use of the word “natural” with what this proposed development requires of our community.
It seems that Traugott believes it’s “natural” simply because the property in question is adjacent to an existing development. This line of thinking has disturbing implications for those who place high value on inherently democratic, carefully deliberated, well-planned community development. The logical extension of the mayor’s definition of “natural” would, to paraphrase Joni Mitchell, eventually pave all of our Woodford County paradise and put up a parking lot.
In fact, the proposed development is anything but “natural” at this time. Let’s place aside for now the “natural” water drainage problems likely to be exacerbated by the proposed development, trusting that this critically important point will be thoroughly addressed by the residents of Williams Lane and Payne’s Mill Road who will be most directly affected. There are other “natural” issues of great consequence we should consider.
The decisions required to move this development forward would come at the steepest of prices for our local democracy, a “natural” institution for humans in this community. These decisions are highly significant, and this week the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission will make some of them. They should carefully weigh the long-term implications of their choices.
P&Z is being asked to change our community’s Comprehensive Plan, the document that results from a lengthy, inclusive, equitable and democratic public process. This process is open to all Woodford County citizens every five years as required by state law. P&Z has recently initiated this review process, having conducted a public survey and appointed its own Comprehensive Plan Review Committee.
The decision before P&Z now is to make a fundamental change to the existing Comprehensive Plan by expanding the Versailles Urban Services Boundary and rezoning Edgewood Farm’s land for commercial development. In other words, P&Z is being asked to throw out the existing Comprehensive Plan produced by hundreds of hours of citizen involvement for a commercial development that simply is not in any way an urgent need for this community. They are being asked to sweep aside the “natural” local democratic processes that produced the existing Comprehensive Plan, just as they are initiating this very “natural” process again.
P&Z members should be careful not to confuse their lawful role as public stewards of our limited land resources with some contrived role as planning authorities with the power to degrade a critically important part of our local democracy. To do so would be most unnatural for public officials appointed by our locally elected leaders. They are appointed as stewards, not as dictators who can impose their personal will on our community with total disregard for the local democratic processes with which they are entrusted.
A vote to expand the Urban Service Boundary and amend the Comprehensive Plan would do irreparable harm to the “natural” democratic processes in which our entire community engages every five years to decide together how we want to further develop our community. Whether you support or oppose this particular development, surely most all of us can agree that we do not want our freedom to participate in our local democracy compromised.
Rather than take this fundamentally unnatural approach, P&Z should table this decision and consider it during the Comprehensive Plan Review Process, the very one that they just recently launched. The vote likely tonight (Thursday, Feb. 11) will permanently establish the legacy of each of these appointed members either as citizens fully respectful of our “natural” democratic processes and their own roles within them, or as individuals willing to render these democratic processes far less meaningful than they should be.
John-Mark Hack is a Woodford County resident and citizen since 1998.
Editor’s note: A public hearing on the proposed Edgewood Farm development on Lexington Road at Paynes Mill Road, scheduled to be held during the Planning and Zoning Commission’s meeting tonight, has been postponed. See story, page 1.