After more than an hour of debate Thursday, the Urban County Planning Commission decided to delay until May a vote on changes in Lexington's zoning laws that regulate recreation and tourism.
The zoning text amendment addresses what types of recreational activities may be conducted throughout Fayette County. But much of the controversy during Thursday's planning commission meeting centered on recreational uses in the county's rural zones — the agricultural rural and agricultural natural zones.
One key area of contention: What types of commercial recreational activities, such as biking, hiking and zip line and canopy tours, should be allowed in the rural areas?
The commission has been debating and discussing the recreational zoning text amendment for more than 18 months. Still, after some members proposed several key changes during Thursday's meeting, the commission decided to delay further discussions until May 21, which is a work session. The next time it could vote on the text amendment would be at its May 28 meeting.
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Some commission members said Thursday that the zoning text amendment — although well intended — went too far.
"I am concerned that it is very narrow and restrictive," said David Drake. "I'm also concerned that it may have some unforeseen and un intended consequences."
Planning commission member Carolyn Richardson agreed.
"I love the horse farms," Richardson said. "I think there needs to be some regulation, but I think it goes a step or two too far."
Others on the 11-member commission spoke in favor of the amendment.
Franklin Penn said the amendment protected agriculture and the horse industry and created new uses — such as farm gift shops — that currently aren't allowed in the agricultural zones.
Commission chairman Mike Owens agreed, calling the text amendment a "strong statement" that protected the equine and agricultural industries.
The commission did make some tweaks during Thursday's meeting.
It voted 6-5 to make youth camps, commercial hiking, bicycling and agritourism a permitted use in the agricultural natural zone without getting special permission from the city, a key change. Under the proposed amendment, those wishing to establish such commercial ventures would have to get approval from the city.
Only a small portion of the county's southeast corner — along the Kentucky River — is designated as agricultural natural.
Planning commission staff proposed changing the text amendment to allow commercial biking, hiking and other outfitters in the agricultural rural zone if a commercial outfitter received approval from the city. Under the amendment as presented, all of those activities would be prohibited in the agricultural rural zone, which is what much of Fayette County's rural land is zoned.
The commission did not take a vote on the staff's proposed change.
If the planning commission approves a zoning text amendment, it must go to the full Urban County Council for final approval.