• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

P&Z okays urban service boundary expansion for baking company

An Indiana-based baking company's proposal to construct its new manufacturing facility on 100-plus acres along Big Sink Pike in Woodford County cleared two critical hurdles after a public hearing last Thursday night, March 10. The Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved an amendment to the 2011 Comprehensive Plan, which expands the Versailles urban service boundary to include nearly 67 acres on Big Sink Pike. The commission also recommended a zone change by a 9 to 0 vote. If Versailles City Council proceeds with the annexation of the 67 acres and then also approves the zone change - from A-1 (agricultural) to I-1 (light industrial) - More Than A Bakery can move forward with a development plan to construct its 210,000 square-foot manufacturing facility on a 113-acre industrial site at 260-910 Big Sink Pike. Flooding, other concerns Three residents of Williams Lane began last Thursday's public hearing by voicing concern about flooding problems along Big Sink Pike and Williams Lane, which they said has been closed off for long periods of time. "It used to take about four or five inches of rain over a short period of time for that water to come up to the surface," said Lori Fusting, "but in the last few years we're noticing it takes less and less (rainfall). It takes about one to two inches of rain and you can already start seeing it collect." Amy Bailey said record-breaking rainfall in 2011 led to water encroaching on her home for 30 days. A sandbag wall and sump pumps did not stop storm water from entering into her home's basement. And horses in paddocks on her property were moved to a neighbor's barn "because our horses were literally at risk of drowning," Bailey said. While concerns about flooding were voiced again and again during the hearing, others lauded More Than A Bakery for being able to provide a much needed economic boost to the community. More Than A Bakery will employ 300 workers initially, but will have a total of 500 employees at its Versailles facility with a total build-out of 445,000 square-feet of floor area, according to a staff report given to Planning Commission members. Woodford County farmer Rusty Thompson reminded those attending last week's hearing of the numerous businesses that have left Woodford County in recent years and told them, "We are a dying community." "The one good thing that we're excellent at - we're good at it, every one of us - we support the surrounding counties with our dollars," he added. ".We are a dying town." The chair of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority cited a recent state study showing "some very disturbing trends" in Woodford County. "We are losing our younger workers," John Soper said. Referring to the study's employment trends, Soper said the number of people age 29 and younger employed here was down 15 percent, while the number of people age 55 or older employed here was up 54 percent. "We cannot sustain this community," said Soper, "unless we create jobs and we create jobs that will attract young people - it's as simple as that." The need to give the local economy a boost resonated with Commissioner Patty Perry. She told other Planning Commission members that her adult children and others do not have job opportunities in this community. "This (baking company) is a wonderful opportunity for our county. I think it's a wonderful for our economic base," said Perry. "The water issues have been there for years. They're always going to be there. "I truly believe that if these people bring in the appropriate engineers and hydrologists to work on this project that it may even lessen some of the issues that are in that area." Williams Lane resident Kirsten Johnson told Planning Commission members that the proposed manufacturing facility is being built on karst land with unique water runoff challenges that can lead to flooding. "The water's getting worse and I don't know why . but if you don't have experts who do know, and we build this - we're setting ourselves up for a big disaster," said Big Sink Pike resident Bruce Berenson. Given the close proximity of the proposed manufacturing facility to homes in the Stonegate subdivision and farms along Big Sink Pike, other residents talked about how bringing industry to this area would negatively affect their property values. Bobby and Shelley Gaffney, who own a farm on Big Sink Pike, said they are concerned about all of the light coming from a manufacturing facility and the traffic generated by a large employer. They also voiced concerns about increasing the volume of storm water on properties along Big Sink Pike. "Big Sink is called Big Sink because it's a sink - it floods. It floods a lot," said Shelley Gaffney. One of the principal owners of More Than A Bakery told Planning Commission members and those attending last week's public hearing, "We want to be involved in the community because quite frankly, we love the community." Bill Quigg said More Than A Bakery looked at more than 40 cities before choosing to locate its operations in Versailles. "Our goal is not to make (the flooding problems) worse," Quigg said. ".If anything we want to make that drainage issue better. Now we can't fix all of the (flooding) problems . but we do want to make it better." The flooding problems in this area of Woodford County were initially raised when Commissioner Ed McClees questioned an engineer representing the developer about how the cookie company will handle rainwater on this site. He was told two ponds will detain water on the site before being slowly released downstream. "There's a lot of people upstream of us too who are contributing significant amounts of water," he told McClees. Not knowing the exact footprint of the manufacturing facility or parking lot areas, Rob Doyle, of Hixon Engineering in Cincinnati, said a drainage plan has not been finalized. "But in concept we understand . what we need to do," he added. If Versailles City Council annexes the property and approves the recommended zone change, Planning Director Pattie Wilson said, the applicant must submit a final development plan and detailed construction plans, which must be approved by city and county engineers before a grading permit gets issued so construction to begin. While Citizens for Sustainable Community Growth voiced support for allowing More Than A Bakery to come here, its spokesman, Don Lewis, said that support is contingent upon the adequate handling of storm water runoff and not setting a precedent for future land-use decisions related to large expansions of the Versailles urban service boundary. Also, Lewis said Citizens for Sustainable Community Growth "does not support the manner in which this expansion and zone change was conducted. This concern isn't related to land use. It concerns the erosion of the public's confidence and trust in its elected and appointed officials to uphold not only the laws but the spirit of the laws that have been adopted by the community. Lewis said citizens of the community should have been given a legitimate opportunity to participate in a meaningful way during the decision-making process. "Instead," he added, "they face a too little, too late scenario where the granting of annexations and zone changes is seen as just a formality - not an informed planning decision." A public announcement in late February of More Than A Bakery's decision to locate a manufacturing facility employing 300 workers in Versailles came before the Planning Commission scheduled a public hearing to discuss amending the Comprehensive Plan and a request to rezone 67 acres on Big Sink Pike to accommodate the baking company's manufacturing facility in Versailles.

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