Groups oppose 'justified expansions' of urban services area
Two citizen groups are opposed to proposed language that would allow "justified expansions" of the urban services areas as an objective in an updated Comprehensive Plan. The Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to discuss possible changes to the goals and objectives of the county's land-use plan during its regular meeting tonight, Thursday, at 6:30 in the second-floor courtroom of the Woodford County Courthouse. "This (proposed language) allows for expansions - in our view - of unlimited size and scope," said Karen Isberg, a spokesperson for Citizens for Sustainable Growth. "So a lot of people in our group and other people that we've spoken to are asking, 'Why delineate an urban service boundary in a five-year plan if the language in the plan will allow the boundary to be completely undermined.'" Also unanswered, according to Isberg, is "Who's going to define justified expansions?" She pointed out that the current language of the general land development objective only allows "some limited adjustments" to the urban services area. "Woodford Forward supports leaving the language as is," said its executive officer Billy Van Pelt. He said the current language allows for some limited adjustments, which could mean an expansion or a contraction of the urban services area. In the wake of recent action by the Planning Commission to expand the urban services boundary of Versailles to include 336.83 acres on Lexington Road (known as Edgewood Farm) for a mixed-use development, Isberg said, "We're very concerned that what we're going to see with that expansion is more of what we've seen in the past. Businesses will move to the hottest new place, and they leave behind empty buildings. "We have a (former) Kroger's sitting empty now. We had to demolish an entire shopping center (Versailles Center on the U.S. 60 Bypass at Lexington Road) that was left entirely empty." She urged the governing bodies to learn from what's happened in the past. Both citizen groups are asking the Planning Commission to do an inventory of all properties inside the Versailles urban services area to determine if current land-use designations are appropriate or not. "And try to work with the landowners of that property so it can be developed - instead of sprawling out . and leaving empty properties behind," said Isberg. By doing an inventory of properties inside the urban services boundary, government leaders would have a better handle on what vacant land is actually available to address the city's current land-use needs for light industrial and professional office, Van Pelt said. "We're very interested in seeing all of the vacant land (inside the urban service boundary) and all of the underutilized land in Woodford County redeveloped," said Van Pelt. He said those properties in the urban service area should be utilized to their potential before discussions of expansion occur. "There's some scare tactics out there that the land grab has just begun, and it certainly has not in my view anyway," said Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott when asked about concerns related to the urban services boundary. With land planned for a new hospital and light industrial uses, Traugott described the decision to expand the urban services area to include the Edgewood Farm property as action that will meet the development needs of the city for the foreseeable future. "No offense to the mayor," said Isberg, "but the mayor has already made it very clear that if opportunity knocks he's going to jump." Instead of supporting plans to build as many stores and restaurants as nearby counties, Woodford County leaders should concentrate on preserving the area's natural agricultural assets, she said. Traugott said he would not support any expansion of the Versailles urban service area that moves the boundary any closer to Fayette County, and he described the value of the land along Frankfort Road (U.S. 60 west) as "a nonstarter" in terms of development.