• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Opposing views on Lexington Road plan

Woodford County residents voiced concerns during an April 28 public hearing about how a mixed-use development the size of Edgewood Farm - 405 acres along Lexington Road - would change Woodford County's identity and agricultural landscape. "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," said Bryan Lyster, who was born, raised and still lives in Woodford County, "it would severely take away from what makes Woodford County special." Two citizens' groups - Woodford Forward and Citizens for Sustainable Community Growth - argued that sufficient land was already available inside the Versailles urban services boundary to easily accommodate what's proposed in the mixed-use development, including a new hospital site. "There are numerous county-wide organizations as well as large-scale equine operations that oppose the Edgewood expansion of the urban services boundary, rezoning and development plan," said Billy Van Pelt, CEO of Woodford Forward. Van Pelt said the record of the April public hearing and correspondence to the Planning Commission clearly shows widespread opposition to the Edgewood Farm proposal. "We were very disappointed in the Edgewood recommendation," said Karen Isberg, a spokesperson for Citizens for Sustainable Community Growth. "We felt that the commission didn't listen to the community who overwhelmingly disapproved of that annexation and zone change." She said there were opportunities to compromise by only developing the 71 acres already inside the Versailles urban services boundary, which was seemingly ignored as an option by the commission. "People are very frustrated (because) they don't feel as if they're being heard," said Isberg. She pointed out that people with concerns about the Edgewood Farm proposal, and the size of a proposed residential neighborhood on Lexington Road (known as the Backer property), packed the courtroom where those public hearings were held. Isberg said five community groups attending recent public hearings to voice their concerns about Lexington Road zone-change requests represent thousands of people in Woodford County. And she pointed out that those groups suggested alternatives to what they opposed. "We are not no-growth groups. We are smart-growth groups," said Isberg. ".We want infill. We want to see you use the areas that are already available and develop those (areas) first. We don't want any more empty buildings like the Kroger that's sitting there empty" on Lexington Road. To community groups and others concerned and/or opposed to rezoning 405 acres along Lexington Road and expanding the urban services boundary because of what may happen, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott said, "It's natural to be afraid of change, (but) . I believe Edgewood is a change for the better. I don't think it will be a dramatic shift in the community. You'll notice a difference on the (Lexington Road) corridor coming in (to Versailles). But I think it's up to us and it's up to Planning and Zoning to hold them (developer CRM Companies) to high standards on the development. That's kind of our responsibility to make sure it's aesthetically pleasing (and) functional for traffic purposes. "So I think if we all do our jobs, it will be a good change for the community. It certainly will be a good change to the tax base - a positive impact (on city revenue)." The Planning Commission has recommended that Versailles City Council approve a rezoning of the Edgewood Farm property - located 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). A preliminary plan for the 405-acre development includes a site for a new Bluegrass Community Hospital on Lexington Road at Paynes Mill Road. Industrial and commercial businesses in the mixed-use development were not identified during a public hearing on the zone-change request. Asked what he and other leaders can do to ensure local residents will get different retail and restaurant options with the development of Edgewood Farm, Traugott acknowledged that local government cannot dictate what businesses locate there. However, he said local leaders can continue a dialogue with the developer in hopes of bringing more retail and dining choices to Versailles. "They want a positive development, and they want one that's received positively by the community so they're interested in what the feedback (from us) is," said Traugott during a telephone interview on Monday. The developer of Edgewood Farm has verbally committed to donating 20 acres of industrial land to the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which will also have an option to acquire the other 100 acres being re-zoned for industrial uses as identified in a proposal recommended for approval by the Planning Commission. The verbal commitment between the EDA and the developer "adds a layer of accountability to the project that doesn't exist in a lot of developments," said Traugott. As a result of those commitments, he said public officials will have control over one-quarter of the Edgewood property.

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