As expected, several residents objected to a proposed bypass around Versailles as a draft goal of the Woodford County planning commission.
About 40 people attended a hearing Thursday night on the goals and objectives. The commission took no action after the hearing, which lasted about 47 minutes and included comments from 14 speakers.
One draft transportation goal is that the commission should “promote and encourage” the proposed bypass that would extend Falling Springs Boulevard around the west side of Versailles to U.S. 62 (Midway Road) north of town.
The bypass was taken off the state’s six-year road plan earlier this year, but it could be added again in the future.
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Midway residents have opposed that extension, saying it will funnel big trucks onto the two-lane U.S. 62 and through their city. But some Versailles residents say the road is needed to reduce downtown congestion through Versailles.
Among those speaking against the bypass was Bob Pekny.
“I feel this does not belong in the goals and objectives unless you can show data that a clear majority of the people in Woodford County think that’s what they want,” Pekny told the commission. “I don’t think that’s the case.”
But Harold Steele, a Realtor and longtime proponent of the bypass, cited a 2010 phone survey in which 73 percent of respondents “wanted the bypass.”
He said a citizens advisory committee also supported the bypass.
Besides, Steele said, “I don’t think you have to be an expert … to stand at Corner Drug (in downtown Versailles) any time during the day and not recognize that we’re in bad need of a bypass.”
Dottie Cordray of Midway said she strongly opposes the bypass, and it appears “in direct opposition” to another listed goal that says the planning commission “should discourage tractor-trailer traffic from certain routes, including downtown Versailles and Midway Road.”
Billy Van Pelt II, CEO of Woodford Forward, said the bypass was the lowest priority among 1,463 people who responded to a 2015 survey by that organization.
By contrast, “less than a handful of citizens” among the 40 respondents to the planning commission’s online survey favored the bypass, Van Pelt said. “This is not a justification for including a $30 million project in the comprehensive plan,” he said.
Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he has “always firmly supported Versailles’ right to alleviate their possible traffic concerns, … (but) I don’t support doing so without trying other sound suggestions which to date have been ignored and which might avoid dumping the problem on their next-door neighbor.”
Vandegrift said the goal should be removed or the language should be changed “to express concern for the traffic issues in Versailles but not favoring a currently undoable option out of many other doable ones.”
Versailles attorney Hank Graddy Jr., speaking on behalf of Woodford Coalition, also said the bypass goal should not be included.
“It is a controversial proposal that has divided the community and it will always divide the community,” Graddy said. “Fortunately, Frankfort has seen the wisdom of deleting this proposal. The planning commission should follow the lead of Frankfort.”
The hearing was held to gather comments on proposed goals and objectives of the planning commission. Every five years, the commission reviews and updates its comprehensive plan, a guide that outlines what the community sees as its transportation priorities and land-use needs.
Laura Dake of Citizens for Sustainable Community Growth said previous goals and objectives have not been supported by the planning commission’s actions. She cited the commission’s recommendation this year that the urban service boundary around Versailles should be expanded by hundreds of acres to include the Edgewood Farm property, which a developer hopes to turn into various residential, commercial and industrial uses, as well as space for a new hospital.
“Woodford County citizens should feel confident that their appointed officials will follow not just the letter but also the spirit of the planning document,” Dake said. “And elected officials should be appointing members who will do so.”