Community's future discussed at hearing
While a lot of comment focused on the Comprehensive Plan's goals and objectives, the future of Woodford County was discussed by many who spoke during a public hearing last Thursday night. Specifically, several people talked about why the Versailles urban service boundary should or should not be expanded before the Comprehensive Plan has been reviewed and possibly updated. The comments came two weeks before a March 3 public hearing on a request to amend the current Comp Plan in order to expand the Versailles urban service boundary to accommodate a proposed mixed-used development on approximately 400 acres along Lexington Road. Billy Van Pelt, a spokesman for Woodford Forward, said the citizens' group that he represents "strongly opposes any expansion of the Versailles or Midway urban service boundaries at this time." Van Pelt said any consideration to expand those boundaries should not occur until after the Comp Plan has been updated and the county's land-use needs are considered. He said any expansion of either urban service boundary before the Comp Plan has been fully reviewed "would undermine Woodford County's Comprehensive Planning process," and jeopardize the confidence placed in this planning document by sending a message that "the overarching vision for this community is subject to change on a case-by-case basis." Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott urged the Comp Plan committee to consider adding language to the goals and objectives that would give the Planning Commission flexibility to consider amending the Comp Plan prior to the state-mandated five-year review process. Local real estate agent Harold Steele voiced his frustration with the idea of having to wait for the review process to conclude before the Planning Commission can consider an expansion of the urban service boundary. He said a need for industrial, retail, commercial and residential property already exists in Woodford County. Steele also encouraged the Planning Commission to advocate for state funding to complete the final portion of a bypass in the Comp Plan's transportation goal. Others were not supportive of changes that promote growth. Instead, they supported goals and objectives that "focus on protecting, maintaining and enhancing those attributes that make us special," said Jane Marie Watts. She suggested the county's natural resource conservation goal should become the Comp Plan's biggest goal, with a primary objective being the protection of its drinking water and karst topography. Jeff Alexander urged members of the committee to consider making a decision that allows Woodford County to take advantage of not being like other communities in Central Kentucky. "Woodford County is unique for many reasons," said Deb Pekny. "The quality of life, the tranquility, the rural roads, the river, the open land - you can't put a price on those. And once they're gone through development, they're irreplaceable and they're gone forever." Several people who spoke during last Thursday's hearing voiced their support for the Comp Plan's current goals and objectives, but also suggested additional goals and objectives for the committee to consider as it moves forward with its review of the county's land-use plan. Watts urged the Comp Plan committee to consider adding an objective that promotes industrial hemp as a new crop in Woodford County. "A locally grown economy is always preferable to one that is dependent on out-of-state and foreign corporations," she said. Traugott suggested adding non-motorized trails as a stand-alone objective under an existing transportation goal. Others supported an expansion of the county's trail system as well, including Helen Rentch. She also voiced support for increasing the availability of affordable housing in Woodford County. If any changes are proposed to the goals and objectives, a second public hearing will be scheduled. State law requires a community review its Comprehensive Plan every five years.