Prior to adoption of the Purchase of Development Rights Program in Lexington-Fayette County, 10-acre tracts were gobbling up huge portions of the Fayette County landscape.
The negatives of this trend far outweighed the positives.
Ten-acre tracts are essentially rural estates, not farms, so the land was lost to agriculture.
Moreover they accommodate only one residential unit for 10 acres whereas the same amount of land in a typical development could accommodate 20-40 single-family homes and many times that in townhouses or multi-family dwellings.
Ten-acre tracts may be great from the perspective of the individual owner; otherwise they are a waste of one of Fayette County's most valuable, finite resources: land.
Of equal importance from the development side of the fence, 10-acre tracts were encircling the Urban Service Area boundary like an emerald choker.
Even in those areas most appropriate for future expansions of the Urban Service Area boundary, 10-acre tracts were proliferating.
History shows that occupants of 10-acre tracts almost always oppose — usually vehemently — higher density, urban development in their vicinity.
Ten-acre tract development was turning a boundary that was intended to be expanded over time into an impenetrable barrier.
How, then, to eliminate 10-acre tracts in the agricultural portion of Fayette County and at the same time compensate farm owners for the resulting loss of economic value?
The answer was, and still is, the PDR Program.
Under that program, and the accompanying changes in land use regulations, the minimum lot size in the Rural Service Area was increased to 40 acres, thereby virtually ensuring that all such lands would be devoted to true agricultural uses.
The PDR Program was funded to compensate rural property owners who chose to participate — the program is voluntary, not mandatory — for agreeing to keep their property in agriculture.
The point system to rank properties for PDR acquisition was weighted so as to discourage the purchase of development rights in the areas most appropriate for future Urban Service Area expansion.
In addition, the target for acquisition was set at 50,000 acres, which represents slightly less than half of the acreage in the Rural Service Area at the time the PDR Program was adopted.
Who benefits from all this?
The current situation is better for the long-term preservation of farmland and the promotion of agriculture, including the horse industry, than was the previous system.
The elimination of 10-acre tracts benefits future development by eliminating the prospect of the emerald choker and by allowing a much more dense pattern of development.
Finally, PDR supports all the drivers of Fayette County's economy: the horse industry and other growth sectors.
When we attract new businesses to Fayette County, the employees will have to have some place to live. That is almost never going to be on rural 10-acre estates.
As the community grows, we will ultimately have to expand our Urban Service Area boundary. The PDR Program anticipates, and will accommodate, appropriate expansions while at the same time preserving the great majority of our rural countryside.
In short, it strikes a balance that benefits us all.