• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Edgewood Farm suits are filed

A group of horse farm owners and people living near the Edgewood Farm property on Lexington Road recently rezoned by the city of Versailles filed two lawsuits last week against the Versailles City Council, the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission and the property owners, including Hardin Field IV, Virginia Field and Edgewood Farm LLC. "We believe the city acted illegally and we will ask the court to set aside this unprecedented departure from good planning in Woodford County," the attorney for the first suit, Hank Graddy IV, told The Sun. Among the plaintiffs in that suit are Ben and Jennifer Chandler, whose family owns The Sun. It claims the rezoning was arbitrary, not based on substantial evidence, and violates the county's goals and objectives of the 2011 Comprehensive Plan, which designated the area to remain agricultural. It alleges the Planning Commission arbitrarily amended the Comprehensive Plan to expand the Urban Services Boundary (USB), which allowed the city council to rezone the property, which it annexed, to be developed for urban uses. The suit also claims the plaintiffs weren't offered due process, and that Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott failed to disclose "biases and conflicts of interest" because the Edgewood Farm developer is "a major contributor" to Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott's employer. (Traugott is a part-time employee of state House Speaker Greg Stumbo.) Traugott told The Sun that he had no idea whether the developer (CRM) or its employees have contributed to Stumbo or the state Democratic Party and never discussed the matter with Stumbo. "They haven't donated to me, I can attest to that," Traugott said, calling the charged based on his employment with Stumbo "purely political." "He's (Graddy) trying to use a semi-legitimate document so that they can claim there's something amiss, which is completely hogwash," Traugott said. "We've done it during the sprawl boom, we held the line with the Urban Service Boundary, same thing during the housing bubble, and from this point forward. There's absolutely no need to expand the Urban Service Boundary. There is empty farmland, unused farmland inside the Urban Service Boundary - this is simply an abdication of good planning by some leaders who have lost sight of what Woodford County's all about," Graddy said. Graddy said Traugott (a former member of the Planning Commission), "inappropriately departed from good planning and zoning practices by becoming an advocate in public and on social media before this matter was properly presented to him and the city council." Traugott disagreed with Graddy's interpretation of his testimony before the Planning Commission and his public comments, and said some of the suit's plaintiffs also spoke publicly on the matter. "I consider it communicating with my constituents, which is something that Hank would not know about or appreciate. The fact of the matter is, the mayor has no official authority in zone change decisions," Traugott said, pointing out that he doesn't have a vote on zone changes in council. "My role is simply to preside at meetings when those topics come up," Traugott said. Traugott said he wasn't surprised by the suits, which he said "seems to be the MO (modus operandi) in Woodford County, which is part of the reason we've been stifled on economic development for so many years." Traugott said he didn't believe the plaintiffs intended to win the suits, but rather to delay plans to build, plans for which include homes, businesses, an industrial park, and perhaps a new Bluegrass Community Hospital. Asked whether the plaintiffs might be blamed for delaying the new hospital, Graddy responded that they didn't oppose recent efforts to develop on the Sellers property on Troy Pike (Ky. 33). "And they used the hospital as a justification for that location and, as I commented to the Planning Commission, if the Planning Commission is ready to approve development of either one of the Backer parcels (on Lexington Road), both of those are perfectly acceptable lands for a hospital relocation if it needs to be on U.S. 60 (Lexington Road). So there are sites inside the USB, either zoned or ready for the hospital to start construction, or inside the USB already annexed and ready to be developed that are suitable for the hospital. This property is simply unsuitable and this is a terrible planning proposal," Graddy said. The second suit, with the Pisgah Community Historical Association as a plaintiff, claims that opponents of the zone change at the April 28 Planning Commission hearing were not given enough time to speak. That lawsuit alleges applicants for the zone change were given 30 minutes, compared to three minutes for opponents, and 15 minutes for rebuttal, while opponents weren't allowed a rebuttal. Graddy told The Sun that Woodford County has a 40-year-history of protecting farmland and horse farms from inappropriate urban sprawl. The suits seek jury trials in Woodford Circuit Court and for a judge to declare void the actions of the Planning Commission and Versailles City Council. The city has 20 days to respond to them.

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