A Fayette County board on Monday rejected the latest proposal by Castleton Lyons to preserve the 1,000-acre horse farm from development.
In November, the Rural Land Management Board had voted to offer Castleton Lyons $2 million for the development rights for the farm on Iron Works Pike. Castleton Lyons returned to the board with a counteroffer, but that offer was voted down by the board at its meeting Monday.
Only one member of the board — Debbie Long —voted against rejecting Castleton’s counteroffer. The amount of the counteroffer was not disclosed. The board discussed that offer behind closed doors. It is allowed to do so under Kentucky open meetings law because it was discussing a real estate transaction.
The Herald-Leader requested a copy of the independent appraisal of Castleton under the state’s Open Records Act. That request was denied because it involved a pending real estate transaction. But based on appraisals of development rights of surrounding farms, it’s likely that Casleton’s development rights were valued at more than $4 million.
Greg Bibb, the chairman of the board, said after Monday’s meeting that it’s not clear what will happen to Castleton Lyon’s bid to have the local government pay all of the cost of its development rights.
“We hope that discussions will continue,” Bibb said.
A representative for Castleton Lyons did not immediately return a phone call asking for comment Monday night.
Since its creation in 2000, the Fayette conservation program has allocated $77 million — $37 million in local money, $24 million in federal money and $16 million in state money — to buy conservation easements for 29,165 acres of land, protecting it from future development. The program typically receives about $2 million in local funds each year.
Castleton Lyons’ case has been contentious.
Castleton Lyons is owned by Shane Ryan, who is Irish and doesn’t pay federal income taxes in the United States. That means a federal program that generally pays for half the cost of conservation easements in the PDR program won’t help pick up the tab, leaving local taxpayers to foot the entire bill.
Mayor Jim Gray and some on council have raised questions about whether the city should spend so much local money on one farm that doesn’t qualify for federal matching funding. The federal conservation program not only requires that recipients be federal taxpayers but also has an income limit of $900,000.
The local ordinance does not require that recipients of local funds be taxpayers nor does it prohibit millionaires from receiving local funds.
Lawyers and representatives with Castleton Lyons have argued there is no requirement that farms in the program receive federal matching funds. Moreover, Castleton Lyons is one of the largest unprotected horse farms remaining in Fayette County. It met all of the requirements for the purchase of development rights program. The farm pays property and other taxes, they argue.
Others have argued that Castleton Lyons is surrounded on all sides by farms already protected by the development rights program. It’s unlikely that the farm would ever be developed.