Resort park, more proposed on 240 acres near Midway
The owner of 240 acres north of Midway is proposing to turn the Elkwood Farm property into an RV resort park, with an educational center located on the South Elkhorn Creek and facilities for an outdoor farmers’ market, according to an application discussed by the Agricultural Advisory Review Committee (AARC) Feb. 10. Kentucky Bluegrass Experience Resort, LLC (Andrew Hopewell, owner) must next apply for a conditional use permit from the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Board of Adjustment (BOA) in order to move forward with its tourist destination (expanded) plans on land zoned for agriculture (A-1) and conservation (CO-1) uses. The public will have a chance to comment on the proposed use when the BOA has a hearing, Planning Director Pattie Wilson said. The property at 485 Georgetown Road is adjacent to the Elkwood Farm property, where Bluegrass Distillers plans to locate a distillery, barrel warehouses, a tasting room in the historic Elkwood Mansion (built in 1835), a visitor center and event space. In a presentation to the AARC, landscape architect Joey Svec said owner Andrew Hopewell’s vision is driving this project. The former University of Kentucky football player wants to create a tourist destination by combining his family’s love of RV camping and the beauty of the bluegrass region, Svec said. “This is not an agricultural enterprise,” he emphasized, “but a tourist destination under the zoning that we’re in.” He said the plan was created based on the land’s natural topography and as a result the number of RV sites on this property (4.7 sites per acre) is less dense than the national average of eight to 10 sites per acre. “So we are half of the national average for density. And that is not because we don’t want more density. That’s because we allowed the land to dictate what the project was going to be,” said Svec. The Kentucky Bluegrass Experience Resort will occupy land in Scott and Woodford counties, with walking/jogging trails, RV campsites and an aquatic park located on 97.5 acres in Woodford County. While those amenities are a part of the master plan for this resort, it’s the natural landmarks that will make this a tourist destination, Svec said. “... We see landmarks as natural elements as well as historic structures,” he said. Two miles of the South Elkhorn Creek run through the property and that will be the “main draw” –why people will want to come to this tourist destination, he said. Svec said other natural landmarks are a natural spring, which will create opportunities to educate visitors about water quality, and the property’s rolling hills. Without those three natural elements, “this would no longer, in our minds, be a tourist destination,” he said. During an interview before the AARC meeting, Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the city has been exploring ways to promote local agritourism, and the Kentucky Bluegrass Experience Resort plans recognize the South Elkhorn Creek as a focal point for recreational opportunities, including canoe trips, as well as the need for watershed preservation. If there’s a large public outcry opposing plans for the property, the owner may have to reconsider what’s being proposed, Vandegrift acknowledged. “But so far,” he added, “the feedback has been positive, and even a few of the folks interested in land conservation have reached out to me and said they are actually excited about the recreational and educational uses” being proposed. Answering a question about an amphitheater in the master plan for the Kentucky Bluegrass Experience Resort, Svec said the space will be “smaller in nature ... for overnight guests of the property. This is not a concert hall ...” He also addressed concerns about the resort becoming an RV living area. “There are no yearly leases. There’s no six-month leases. Nothing of that sort,” he said. Vandegrift predicted any concerns will be worked out and said people will come to realize this is a good plan for land “nestled right on one of the most beautiful stretches of Elkhorn Creek.” “If someone could pull this off, I think it’s these folks,” he said. Vandegrift said he has concerns about traffic on Georgetown Road going forward, no matter what happens in the future. He said traffic generated by a resort and other proposed uses will not “add anything demonstratively larger than we see already,” citing industrial uses in the nearby Midway Station. Vandegrift said the City of Midway and the landowner will need to work with the state Department of Transportation in terms of traffic counts on that stretch of Georgetown Road (Ky. 341). And in the years ahead, he said, “We’re going to have to, probably, limit any more development along that … corridor. I think this is probably the last thing.” As with past property development on land north of Midway, the city will plan to ensure sustainable growth “if this project goes forward,” he said. In other business, the AARC reviewed an application by Rocking M, LLC (Merefield Farm) to amend a conditional use permit at 301 Lansing Lane. If approved by the BOA after a public hearing, the agricultural enterprise involving a horse farm, tours, events and an additional horse barn can be expanded. A silo barn (believed to be about 100 years old) is being preserved and will be converted into an event barn. It will have a separate entrance on the 330-acre farm. Visitors will park on open space and outdoor lighting will be for safety purposes only, with all activities confined to the barn, AARC member Lori Garkovich told the committee. Wilson said she’s never received any complaints about events and activities held at another barn on Merefield Farm since its first conditional-use permit was approved by the BOA. The AARC unanimously recommended the BOA approve the amended conditional-use permit. Committee member John Richardson was not present for the virtual meeting via Zoom. Oath of office Floyd Raglin was administered the oath of office before the AARC elected him as vice chair. Skip Phillips was re-elected chair and Garkovich was re-elected secretary. Raglin succeeds longtime member John Wilhoit on the AARC.