Edgewood farm plan elicits both support, criticism
A request to rezone 405 acres on Lexington Road (known as the Edgewood Farm property) in order to develop a site for a new Bluegrass Community Hospital and land for future industrial uses was both lauded and criticized by those speaking at a public hearing on Thursday, April 28. Employees of Bluegrass Community Hospital, including its CEO, Tommy Haggard, supported the Edgewood proposal as an opportunity to provide Woodford County with a state-of-the-art healthcare facility to meet the future medical needs in the community. The existing hospital, according to longtime physician Ray Depa, has "exceeded its 100-year life expectancy. Frankly, the hospital needs to be replaced. It needs to be replaced in order to continue to deliver high-quality medical care to this community." Others voiced concern about how a development of this size would change Woodford County's identity and agricultural landscape, especially farms along nearby Paynes Mill Road, Pisgah Pike and Williams Lane. "Not only is this proposed development a direct wound to our county's agricultural industry, which happens to be the number one industry in our county, it would severely take away from what makes Woodford County special," said Bryan Lyster, who was born, raised, and still lives in Woodford County. His family's Ashview Farm is located on Paynes Mill Road - directly across from the proposed hospital site - so he also voiced concern about urban sprawl being allowed to encroach on picturesque agricultural lands that attract thousands of tourists every year. "This is not the natural place to grow," Lyster said. CRM Companies (Craig Turner) wants to rezone about 405 acres at 1450 Lexington Road - east of Kroger and west of Paynes Mill Road - to light industrial (118.76 acres), high-density residential (69.81 acres), highway business (96.62 acres), professional office (26.54 acres) and single-family residential (93.52 acres - with over 50 percent to be used for storm water management and open space). In order for this plan to move forward, the Versailles-Midway-Woodford county Planning and Zoning Commission must also vote to amend the 2011 Comprehensive Plan amendment - expanding the Versailles Urban Service Boundary to include the Edgewood Farm property not currently in the city limits. The Versailles City Council adopted an ordinance declaring its intent to annex the 336.83 acres in August 2015. Describing the Comp Plan as a guide with a certain degree of flexibility - and not a strait jacket - Bruce Simpson, an attorney representing CRM Companies, said the Edgewood proposal will provide the City of Versailles with vacant professional office and industrial land that's currently not available. Industrial land in the Edgewood plan will allow the Woodford County Economic Development Authority to attract more businesses like More Than a Bakery and American Howa to Versailles, EDA Chair John Soper said. "We don't know who they are yet," he added, "but you've got to have the (industrial) land first to do it." Simpson pointed out that the Planning Commission has taken action to amend the Comprehensive Plan on three prior occasions. "So there's certainly a precedence to amend the Comprehensive Plan in this manner," he said. Laura Dake, a spokesperson for the grassroots Citizens for Sustainable Community Growth, argued that taking action to amend the Comp Plan would undermine its integrity as a five-year planning guide and the credibility of the Planning Commission as the steward of this public trust. "There are ample land resources - over 1,300 acres - within the urban service boundary that can easily accommodate the development proposed for the Edgewood Farm," said Dake. Attorney Phil Scott, who represents several Woodford County horse farms, including WinStar Farm, told the Planning Commission to defer any consideration allowing a proposal of this magnitude until after completing its work on an update of the present Comp Plan, a process that has already begun. And Woodford County resident Gray Lyster suggested city leaders concentrate on infill projects within Versailles before moving outside the city limits. Because while he supports opening a new hospital facility in the community, Lyster wondered what will happen to the existing hospital facility on Amsden Avenue, which he assumes will just turn into "another ghost town." A traffic impact study prepared for the developer showed the level of service at three proposed vehicular accesses for the proposed Edgewood development along Lexington Road would remain at acceptable levels of service with full build-out. "Connectivity within the site is very good," said landscape architect and site planner John Carman. ".it's in response to the existing conditions of Lexington Road . And not only does it provide good internal distribution of traffic, but it really disperses the density and intensity of traffic so there's less impact on Lexington Road." He described preserving a natural landscape buffer along Paynes Mill Road as a way to maintain its rural character. Because the Edgewood mixed-use development proposes single-family and high-density residential lots, a Planning Commission staff report included housing data. It stated that there are 146 vacant residential lots - an inventory for about one to two years - available to issue building permits within the Versailles USB. Additional information in the staff report stated that the City of Versailles has water service available to the Edgewood site, but a flow study is being conducted this spring to evaluate the city's sanitary sewer system. Results of the study will address sewer availability for the proposed development. The Planning Commission has 90 days after the close of last week's public hearing to take action on the zone-change and Comp Plan amendment requests. No action was taken by the commission last Thursday.