VERSAILLES — Planning commissioners voted Thursday night to amend an updated land-use plan so it keeps protections for the "agricultural-equine preserve district" in northern Woodford County.
The amended plan, approved by voice vote, also deletes any mention of extending Blue Grass Parkway from U.S. 60 to Interstate 64. A draft plan that mentioned consideration of the extension drew heavy opposition from residents at a public hearing last week.
But the plan as adopted still includes another controversial road project: the extension of Falling Springs Boulevard around the west side of Versailles to the U.S. 60-Midway Road intersection north of town.
"The project is included in the state's six-year road plan, and to ignore that fact is not proper planning," commissioner Brian Traugott said in his motion to approve the amended plan.
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Deborah Knittel of Versailles said she was "very pleased" with the amendments.
"They did respond to the public concerns, and I don't think I can ask for anything more," Knittel said.
Versailles Mayor Fred Siegelman said the compromise "pleases a lot of people that had some concerns at the public hearing, and I'm glad for that."
Siegelman said the Blue Grass Parkway extension has been discussed off and on for 30 years, "and I don't think it will ever happen in my lifetime or maybe my kids' lifetimes."
The proposed elimination of protections for the agricultural-equine preserve district was the biggest lightning rod in the land-use plan put forth last week. The preserve includes many of Woodford County's horse farms, and critics said doing away with the protections would have allowed more rural residential "cluster" subdivisions.
Traugott said the draft plan "was not written for the benefit of those who own the fast-food restaurants but for those who patronize them daily, not just for those who put $30 million down on some land, but for those who can barely afford to pay their mortgage or rent."
Traugott said surrounding counties are growing rapidly, while Woodford had grown only 7.5 percent from 2000 to 2010.
"Not only are people not coming in, our children are moving out," Traugott said. "The number of manufacturing jobs has been reduced by almost half, and the number of retail establishments has remained unchanged since 2002. ... These facts do not bode well for our future."
For these reasons, Traugott defended the efforts to make the updated land-use plan more user-friendly and to eliminate some aspects of the 2005 plan that were perceived more as regulations than policy.
In that context, the proposed removal of the ag-equine preserve district was meant only to treat all landowners equitably and with fairness, Traugott said. "I can assure this audience that the development of these farms was never a goal," he said.
Commissioner David Floyd said the commission "was accused of many unfounded and offensive grievances" during the last couple of weeks.
"I want to ensure the public that I don't have a brother-in-law or third cousin once removed who would profit from a development deal down the road, as some would suggest," Floyd said. "I in no way have made any decisions in an effort to get rich from this, as some would suggest. No special interest is pulling the strings of this commission, as some would suggest."
During an exchange with commissioner Jim Boggs, Traugott said he didn't give a "rat's tail what the developers think. I don't care what the fringe of this county thinks on either side. ... I care about what the 80 percent in the middle think."