The recent call in commentaries to allow "only" 1,000 acres of our farmland to be used for industrial use based the argument on several key assumptions that need further consideration.
The commentaries assumed that losing 1,000 acres of farmland would not negatively affect the uniqueness of Lexington.
One thousand acres is about 50 percent larger than Calumet Farm — and would anyone argue that its white fences aren't a defining element of our community?
Of course, the 1,000 acres would need to be located on a major artery for any large factory to send and receive goods. Which road's beauty are you willing to give up in order to recruit a new manufacturer here?
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Since farmland within the county is a finite resource, sooner or later we will have to stop using it for development. The argument for the "need" for land for industrial development will be the same no matter how much farmland we have, including none.
The sooner we stop, the more we preserve the crucial identity and quality of life our precious farmland provides.
However, more importantly, the argument to develop our farmland for manufacturing usage is based on the assumption that large-scale manufacturing is the best way to grow our economy.
While I, along with most, would welcome any company interested in investing in and relocating to the Lexington area, we must carefully weigh the costs of any "perks" offered to these companies before committing.
And, of all the perks, offering the opportunity to develop our priceless farmland is the most costly. Once gone, it will never return.
Manufacturing jobs come and go. Just ask the workers at the Spring Hill, Tenn., Saturn plant that the commentary referenced. Sure, we could have had those jobs in Lexington for 15 years. But now the jobs would be gone (that plant closed several years ago), and the land would never return to its former use.
In my mind, 15 years of jobs is not a good trade for something that we can never get back.
And finally, how many jobs will we lose out on by forfeiting some of what defines us as a city? How many companies will choose not to locate here when we look just like every other mid-sized American city? How many of our entrepreneurs would decide that another city offered too many benefits, and the reasons to stay in Lexington were just not strong enough anymore.
I'm very much in favor of persuading the Urban County Council to pass ordinances to encourage economic development in Fayette County.
However, instead of expanding the urban service boundary, let's talk about programs like the adaptive reuse overlay — which allows for the repurposing of the old industrial Rainbo Bread Factory into a multi-use facility.
And let's talk about the economic incentives often offered to large companies relocating to this area that are often not available to small businesses, which are the backbone of our community.
Neither of these is an easy to fix issue or project to start. But either would have a much better impact on our community economically than would developing 1,000 acres of our farmland.
There are more than 400 acres of land inside the city available for economic development, with more than 12,000 acres that are vacant or underused. Let's spend our energies on incentives for the economic development of these properties.
I'm not a horse farm owner. I don't work in a veterinary clinic. I didn't even make it out to Keeneland for the fall meet this year. But I understand the value these things bring to our city.
I buy the food produced on our local farms. I breathe the clean air that they contribute to our city. And I appreciate that their economic impact on our region is greater than just the taxes paid on their land and the jobs they provide.