Good things are happening in Woodford County. Three new plants are moving to the county, two near Midway and one in Versailles, and another established plant is expanding in Versailles. These will create a total of over 700 full-time jobs with benefits.
In addition, a mixed-use development plan, Edgewood, encompassing 405 acres, has been approved for U.S. 60, adjacent to the Bluegrass Commons development, home to the state’s largest Kroger Marketplace store. A 400-unit residential facility has also been approved.
These events are long overdue and have a positive impact on the community. They have not been without their opponents. A very minor, but vocal and influential, group consisting mostly of horse-farm owners, ill-informed preservationists and at least one out-of-touch politician, have voiced opposition, especially to the Edgewood development.
They are represented in the community by a recently formed entity called Woodford Forward (a misnomer) headed by CEO Billy Van Pelt. They advocate the preservation of farmland and promotion of quality of life. The Edgewood development required the rezoning and annexation of agricultural land. Many of them filed suit as a group to stop it.
Paralleling the positive development, a very bad thing happened to the county. After decades of waiting for a much-needed bypass, the Northwest Mobility Corridor, early this year the Bevin administration killed the project.
This was a project that had already been approved by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The final phase was approval by the legislature for funding. The transportation cabinet had already spent approximately $1 million doing preliminary work involving engineering, surveying and a series of meetings with a citizens advisory committee made up of local officials and residents.
The meetings had always been positive, with minor dissension about the project. At the last meeting, a large majority voted in favor of a four-lane bypass. All the local government agencies, except for the city of Midway, had polled positive for the project.
As far back as 1999, a Wilbur Smith study had recommended the bypass as the No.1 highway project in the county to be completed by 2008. A 2010 Economic Development Authority survey indicated 73 percent of residents wanted the bypass and 60 percent thought downtown traffic was a problem.
So what could possibly have derailed this project?
State transportation officials said they thought the county didn’t want the bypass. They indicated several phone calls objected to the bypass construction. Van Pelt of Woodford Forward also wrote a letter Nov. 19, 2015 using vague and false premises objecting on behalf of his group to the bypass. He used a contorted, controverted survey that really didn’t answer any viable questions.
Finally, the most probable reason for the bypass failure was good old Kentucky politics. Keep in mind that this minority of opponents are some of the wealthiest people in the county. Our district representative and senator avoided the subject as much as possible at functions.
When asked about the progress of the bypass, they would respond by saying there was no money. Somehow they knew there was no money before they knew who the governor was going to be and even before he took office. They also knew before the legislature had met.
Both are also on the horse-farm committee at the state legislature. Even though there was no money, our district legislators were somehow able to secure $40 million for the reconstruction of Ky. 33 from Ky. 169 to Ky. 1267 in Troy. That’s a section of highway that was not on anyone’s radar and will not help traffic flow in any way whatsoever.
To be sure, Ky. 33 does need a redo from Bluegrass Parkway to Ky. 169 because of the large amount of traffic coming from Nicholasville to get to Frankfort and Louisville. If there was ever a waste of taxpayer money in an era of austerity, this is it.
Cronyism, political favoritism, political expediency — these are the very reasons Kentucky always ranks at the bottom of the list in national rankings. Our state government rarely does what needs to be done, but instead goes in the opposite direction.
Harold Steele is a Versailles Realtor/broker.
Related: Herald-Leader article, “Ben Chandler, William Farish among plaintiffs against Versailles annexation”