If you type "Woodford County Fiscal Court" into a search engine the first item on the first page shown is a single, brief paragraph under the heading "Our History."
The last sentence reads: "Today, encompassing more than 123,000 acres of the world's finest agricultural land, the County boasts the largest total farm income in Kentucky — largely due to our significant equine industry."
This one sentence recognizes some fundamental facts about Woodford County that seem to have been forgotten in the deliberations that led to the comprehensive land-use plan awaiting action by the county's planning commission.
The commission will do a serious disservice to this beautiful, prosperous county tonight if it accepts the plan as written.
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Probably the worst thing about the proposed plan is that it would allow subdivisions in an area of the county now protected as an "agricultural-equine preserve district."
Many people in Kentucky cherish the understandable dream of living in a pleasant neighborhood with views of horses grazing in fields nearby. No doubt, many developers would love to help them realize those dreams.
However, one of the hard-learned lessons in Kentucky horse country is that neighborhoods and valuable horses are not a good mix.
Construction, dogs, kids, noise and light can all distress horses. Horses, meanwhile, can be very dangerous for dogs and kids who wander too close, not to mention the smells that accompany livestock. Good sales brochures, yes; good neighbors, no.
Beyond that, though, is the fact that Woodford, one of the state's most prosperous counties, relies on its farmland for its wealth, as the sentence quoted above indicates. In October it recorded the lowest unemployment rate among Kentucky's 120 counties.
The U.S. Census Bureau's most recent calculations tell us the median and per capita incomes for Woodford far exceed those for the state while the number of people living in poverty, 10.1 percent, is far less than the state rate of 18.4 percent. Woodford Countians have also completed more education than the average Kentuckian and are more likely to own their homes.
So, what's wrong? We've got nothing against the idea of continuous improvement but still you have to wonder what the planning commission is trying to fix.
Woodford's respect for its agricultural land has served the county's residents extremely well. Non-farmers may have difficulty understanding this but, again as the sentence indicates, not all dirt is equal. Kentucky's Bluegrass region is host to wonderful, unique soils that give rise to the grasses that nurture horses and other livestock.
Woodford County has some of the best of the best. Taking that land out of production for housing will produce short-term construction jobs but long term it will be robbing the county of its most valuable resource.
Brian Traugott, chairman of the comprehensive plan review committee, offered a couple of odd justifications for removing protection for agricultural lands, including that it would mean treating landowners throughout the county the same. That argument undermines the entire concept of planning.
If it's OK to build a rendering plant in one place, why not next door? Why not have bars or strip clubs next to elementary schools? Wouldn't that be giving everyone the same property rights?
Beyond that, Traugott argued "the market will dictate that that land will be used for its best purpose, which is agriculture, for the foreseeable future."
So, why change the plan for something that isn't going to happen anyway?
Woodford County has done an excellent job nurturing lively, lovely small cities in Versailles and Midway while protecting "the world's finest agricultural land." It should continue to do so.