A Georgetown oversight body wants Blue Grass Stockyards to conduct more testing and get some of its plans reviewed by state water officials before it receives the green light to build a sales pavilion on Ironworks Pike at Interstate 75 in northern Fayette County.
The group — consisting of Georgetown Municipal Water and Sewer staff, and Fayette County and Georgetown planning and emergency management officials — made the recommendations Thursday after hearing a more than 45-minute presentation from stockyard officials about the proposal to build a 186,600-square-foot sales pavilion on land that includes the aquifer feeding Georgetown’s water supply. The property is close to the Scott County line.
In addition, the plans call for a 40,000-square-foot accessory use building that probably would house a restaurant and other agriculture-related businesses.
The group’s recommendations include additional dye testing to verify where drainage from the site goes, a review by the state Division of Water on the group’s plans to manage groundwater, and a recommendation that there be no blasting during construction.
The committee’s recommendations will be forwarded to the Fayette County Board of Adjustment, which will decide at its March 25 meeting whether to grant the stockyard’s request for a conditional-use permit for a livestock marketing operation.
Jim Akers, chief operating officer for Blue Grass, said after the meeting that it was unlikely the business would be able to conduct all of the additional testing the group wants before next week’s meeting. Akers said the company would take all of the group’s recommendations under advisement.
The company’s Lexington location was destroyed in a massive fire in late January. It wanted to move the stockyard to the same site on Ironworks Pike more than a decade ago, but that effort was halted when then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher asked the stockyars group not to move there because the site was close to the Kentucky Horse Park, which was set to host the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games.
Akers told the group packed into a small conference room at the Georgetown Municipal Water and Sewer headquarters Thursday that the stockyard planned to build a state-of-the-art complex with cutting-edge technology that would minimize its environmental impact. The previous proposal would have placed the livestock marketing building partially on the Royal Springs aquifer, which feeds Georgetown’s water supply. The current proposal would place the entire complex on land that does not feed the aquifer.
The plan is to remove all manure from the property regularly to reduce odors and concerns about contamination, he said. Modern stockyards don’t use as much hay, either; that cuts down on moisture, which contributes to the odor, Akers said.
There will be two lined detention ponds near the railroad on the west side of the property that will catch all storm water runoff from the parking lots and other impervious services. The ponds will filter the water then release it, Akers said.
But members of the committee had concerns about management plans for groundwater — water not caused by storms.
Jim Long of Georgetown water and sewer said the stockyard included information in its operational plan for storm water, but it didn’t address groundwater management. Long recommended that the group have its groundwater management plan approved by the state Division of Water.
“I would like to see that in place during construction and before the building is constructed,” Long said.
The stockyard and the Kentucky Geological Survey performed dye tests in 2003 that showed where water drains on the property. Long also recommended that those dye tests be updated, and be conducted on the eastern edge of the property and near where the storm water basins are planned.
Akers said after the meeting that the previous dye tests were conducted near the proposed site of the storm water basins. Akers said he would talk more with Long and the Georgetown water and sewer staff to determine where new dye tests are to be conducted.
The group’s recommendations are just that — recommendations that will be forwarded to the Fayette County Board of Adjustment, which will have the final say on the stockyard’s application.
Georgetown Mayor Tom Prather, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said the stockyard has arranged for 25 Scott County residents and 25 Fayette County residents to take a tour March 24 of Blue Grass Stockyards’ Stanford facility, which is less than 10 years old. Prather cautioned that they want to make sure they understand all of the science and the potential environmental impacts.
“We are absolutely committed to protecting our aquifer,” he said. “We cannot be in a supportive position until we do all of our due diligence.”
Prather said Lexington provided water quality testing from Town Branch creek, which is adjacent to the former stockyard site in Lexington. “Our engineers have looked at the data, and it’s simply inconclusive,” he said.
Charlie Martin, director of water quality for Lexington, confirmed that water quality testing on Town Branch was inconclusive. There are two monitoring sites near the former location on Lisle Industrial Avenue. Because one of those sites is downstream from the sewage treatment plant, those sites are monitoring treated wastewater. The testing sites are there to monitor the city’s sewage treatment plant, not the stockyard, Martin said.
Stockyards are not required to conduct site-specific monitoring of water quality, Martin said.
Lanny Brannock, a spokesman for the Kentucky Department for Environmental Quality, said the stockyard would need a storm-water permit and might be required to have a groundwater protection plan, depending on the final plan.
Akers said the Lexington operation had been at Lisle Industrial Avenue for more than 100 years. It was close to major residential areas and downtown businesses.
“We never had any complaints,” he said.
Martin said there have been no documented water quality complaints tied to the Lexington operation in the past five years.
Many residents of both counties voiced concerns about the project during Thursday’s meeting. Scott County residents said they felt left out of the discussions because a Fayette County planning body will have final say.
Susan Byars lives just over the Scott County line on Ironworks Pike. Byars said most stockyards are in industrial areas for a reason: There is infrastructure including water and sewer service to support those operations. The proposed site is agricultural. The stockyard already has been approved for as much as $540,000 in state tax incentives. Blue Grass Stockyards also is likely to receive local incentives from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. Details about those incentives have not been made public yet and have not been approved by the Urban County Council.
“They are getting a special deal and taxpayer dollars to rebuild,” Byars said. “Why can’t some of that money be used to ensure extra testing to make sure that our water is not contaminated?”
Danny Burkhead lives on the other side of the railroad tracks from the proposed site. Burkhead said he fears the detention ponds would drain onto his Scott County property and into a neighboring mobile home park.
“That runoff comes onto my property right now,” Burkhead said. “I have a well. I don’t want it contaminated.”
Burkhead and Byars said they think the stockyard relocation will be approved no matter what residents say because the business already has received incentives from state leaders to rebuild.
“I feel like it’s just steamrolling ahead,” Byars said.
“We aren’t even small potatoes to them,” Burkhead said. “We’re more like the water that comes off the potatoes after they’ve been cooked.”
But Akers said he and the stockyard were trying to address everyone’s concerns in both counties.
“I feel like I’ve spent more time in Scott County than in Fayette County,” Akers said.