• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Grassroots effort supports alternate site for new hospital

Woodford County farmer Eddie Sellers says he would love to see Bluegrass Community Hospital relocate to a 57-acre site on Troy Pike at the Blue Grass Parkway, owned and farmed by his family. Sellers spoke with Kathy Love, the former CEO of Bluegrass Community Hospital, about the hospital relocating to that site several years ago, he said. Conversations on making a deal "kind of fizzled out" after Love's departure, but Sellers and his family still view the site, already zoned for highway business, as "a wonderful entrance into Woodford County" and a good location for the hospital. "I would still welcome the hospital on that site," Sellers said. "But I'm not going to advocate . this is where the hospital should go because that's out of my bailiwick. I don't know where they should go," he added. Others in the community, including a land-use advocacy organization, are supporting a grassroots effort to promote that site as an alternative to a zone-change request and development plan that would allow a new hospital facility to locate on Lexington Road at Paynes Mill Road. "The hospital should be located on property that is currently zoned and available for construction of the hospital. And the Sellers property is currently zoned and available for the new hospital," said Billy Van Pelt II, CEO of Woodford Forward. The proposal to add industrial land and a site for a new hospital on 400 acres along Lexington Road (known as Edgewood Farm) was discussed during a public hearing in April, and the Planning Commission can take action on the request at its meeting tonight (Thursday) at 6:30. In his conversations with Love several years ago, Sellers said she told him the site on Troy Pike at the Blue Grass Parkway would draw people from Anderson and Mercer counties as well as being in an area of residential growth in Woodford County. "While there's a big open space out there and that would be a suitable building site . I just don't see it being economically feasible for the hospital to be out there," said Tommy Haggard, current CEO of Bluegrass Community Hospital. He said the proposed site at the corner of Lexington and Paynes Mill roads will give a lot of exposure to Woodford County's hospital, now located on Amsden Avenue. "We need to be where there's a lot of traffic," explained Haggard. He said the site on Troy Pike and Blue Grass Parkway doesn't offer that same exposure to the energy and activity of Woodford County as the Lexington Road location does. Sellers said he has a potential developer for his 57 acres. They have been talking over the last two or three years, and the developer remains "very excited and interested in a hospital" coming to the site, Sellers said. If that doesn't happen, the developer will need state approval for an entrance permit for commercially zoned property in order to move forward with bringing "a big box out there," Sellers said. Reflecting on a 2014 plan to bring a Walmart to the site on Troy Pike at Blue Grass Parkway, Sellers said, "I'm glad that that didn't happen. We didn't go looking for Walmart. They found us." A 2012 preliminary plan for the Sellers property listed one building's usage options as a hospital, school or church. Sellers and his family are currently raising 42 acres of soybeans on their Troy Pike-Blue Grass Parkway property. The seventh-generation Woodford County farmer said his great-grandfather purchased that land in 1890. This year, Sellers and his family are growing 450 acres of soybeans on their Woodford County farmlands.

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