Kentucky Agriculture Heritage Center seeks new site after land donation falls through

Mercer Land donation 'didn't work out'

gkocher1@herald-leader.comAugust 10, 2011 

HARRODSBURG — The board of directors for the Kentucky Agriculture Heritage Center hopes to announce a new site for the museum of farm progress later this year. The land where the facility was to go will be subdivided for other purposes.

"We're still ready to move on with this," said Margaret Lane, chairwoman of the non-profit center's board.

Mercer County philanthropist Ralph G. Anderson intended to donate 50 acres of his Anderson Circle Farm north of Harrodsburg for the center. But when Anderson died last year at age 86, the formal transfer had not occurred, and his estate had other plans for the land.

Last week, the Mercer County Joint Planning and Zoning Commission approved six preliminary plats that subdivide more than 4,500 acres of Anderson Circle Farm and other properties. Most of the land is zoned for agricultural purposes, but some is zoned for low-density and high-density residential.

Included in those plats is the site at U.S. 127 and Mundy's Landing Road that Anderson had intended for the Agriculture Heritage Center. The Mercer site, chosen over a competing site in Nelson County, was announced in 2006 at the annual Kentucky Farm Bureau breakfast at the Kentucky State Fair.

But the land is to be sold at auction later this year, Mercer County Judge-Executive Milward Dedman said.

"We have had to take a deep breath and be respectful of Mr. Anderson's family," Lane said Tuesday. "We're very disappointed that didn't work out."

Lane said the board hopes to announce a new site soon that would be "very close" to the original. She said she couldn't announce the location yet because "we haven't completed negotiations on it. We're working on it."

A site-selection committee looked at "four or five sites" during the summer, she said.

In July 2008, Gov. Steve Beshear presented a mock check for $11 million to the center's board of directors. That included $10 million in the form of a bond to be paid off over 20 years. The Kentucky Agricultural Development Board also approved $1 million for a market development study, architectural design, and marketing and promotion of the center.

In addition to the $11 million from the state, Lane confirmed that about $5 million in private pledges, in-kind contributions and actual donations has been raised for the center. The cost of the center at one time was estimated at $25 million, but that probably will be revised.

The center is to be built in two phases, with the first phase including a lobby, exhibit space, a theater, a gift shop, a learning center, a board room and an agricultural Hall of Fame.

The second phase would include an exhibit hall and meeting rooms.

Although it's called a heritage center, Lane said the facility will look at agriculture's future as well as its past. The center plans to generate its own energy, perhaps from wind turbines and the sun. Plans also call for a geothermal system with high efficiency heat pumps to reduce energy use, and automatic controls on lighting to reduce consumption.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service