• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

EDA mulls major restructuring

Much of the Woodford Economic Development Authority (EDA) meeting Friday, Nov. 18, was devoted to a proposal to pay its unpaid chairman and end the city of Versailles's contract with the Bluegrass Area Development District (Bluegrass ADD). In a resolution introduced by Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and passed unanimously at the Versailles City Council meeting Nov. 15, the EDA would pay EDA Chairman John Soper $60,000 annually and $721 a month for health insurance. The funding would be provided in part by increasing the city of Midway's annual EDA payment by more than 500 percent - from $5,000 a year to $26,884. The city of Versailles and Woodford County would also increase their payments from $22,500 to $26,884. The resolution included an opt-out of the city of Versailles's portion of the EDA's yearly $42,000 payment to the Bluegrass Area Development District (Bluegrass ADD) for the services of Craig McAnelly, who serves as executive director for the EDA. Traugott, Woodford Judge-Executive John Coyle and Midway Grayson Vandegrift will meet soon to discuss the matter, Soper said. A new interlocal agreement between the two councils and Woodford Fiscal Court would likely be needed to effect all of the changes. McAnelly did not attend the EDA meeting. Soper said he was ill. None of the EDA members, all of whom are unpaid, expressed any opposition to the plan. Soper said he agreed with Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift's contention that if the city of Midway agreed to pay more to the EDA, it should have more than one appointment to the group. Soper also suggested the EDA not take a position on the resolution until Woodford Fiscal Court and the Midway City Council consider the plan. At the beginning of the year, the Versailles City Council contracted Soper, who'd just retired from the Bank of Lexington, to provide economic development services at a $5,300 per-month rate. "If this EDA contract is not to go through, then you know, I'm going to have to seriously look at being chairman of the EDA. I can't do my job for the city and spend half my time in Midway - it's just not fair. ..." Soper said. "What I hope to convey to the three entities (the Versailles and Midway city councils and Woodford Fiscal Court) is that the economic development that we've accomplished to date can't go forward trying to have a volunteer chairman and a volunteer board that meets every 30 days." Soper said that in the past, the EDA's volunteer board hired an executive director making almost double what he'd be paid under the proposal and wound up $7 million in debt for the land purchase and development of Midway Station. If he couldn't serve as chairman, then the Bluegrass ADD contract needed to be renegotiated, Soper said. Edgewood suit Soper said after talking to Versailles City Attorney Bill Moore that he believed there was a good chance the lawsuit filed to stop the Edgewood Farm development will be dismissed. Two suits were filed in September by horse farm interests and people living near the Edgewood property against the Versailles City Council and Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission. The suits, later consolidated into one, claimed the rezoning of the property was arbitrary, not based on substantial evidence, and violated the goals and objectives of the county's 2011 Comprehensive Plan, which designated the area to remain agricultural. The suit alleges the Planning Commission arbitrarily amended the Comprehensive Plan to expand the Urban Services Boundary (USB), which allowed the council to rezone the property, which it had annexed, for urban uses. Soper said the plaintiffs failed to file an objection to the USB expansion in a timely manner. "Bill's theory is that property (was) already in the urban service boundary. It was in the urban service boundary when the city annexed it and accepted the recommendations of Planning and Zoning, so how can the city be criticized for agreeing to a recommendation? . I don't know. It makes sense to me. We'll see what the judge says," Soper said. The first hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Dec. 14 at 10:30 a.m. in Woodford Circuit Court. Soper and others hope the 118-acre Edgewood Farm property attracts a new Bluegrass Community Hospital, supporting office buildings and serves as the site for an "agriculture industrial complex."

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