Early Thursday, Jim Akers stood on the edge of the now hay-covered former home of Blue Grass Stockyards in Lexington.
“We’ve gotten a lot done in the last 54 days,” said Akers, chief operating officer of the stockyards.
In late January, the stockyards were destroyed in one of the largest fires in Lexington history. Since then, the site on Lisle Industrial Avenue has been cleared of all debris, hay now covers the ground and grass is growing. Now, tops on the stockyards’ to-do list is moving to a proposed new home on Iron Works Pike off Interstate, 75 near the Fayette and Scott County line.
But to do so, the stockyards must get approval from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Board of Adjustment. A hearing on the stockyards’ conditional use application is scheduled Friday.
On Thursday, Akers and stockyards staff took 50 public officials and business leaders from the two counties on a tour of the former stockyards site and then to its stockyards in Stanford, with plans to end the day at the proposed site near the Kentucky Horse Park. Thursday’s tour capped weeks of meetings with Georgetown, Scott County and Fayette County residents to answer questions and try to gain support for the move.
“We are trying to address all questions that people have,” Akers said Thursday. “I have received phone calls from concerned citizens over the past week, and we have tried to address all of those concerns.”
A similar effort more than a decade ago to move the stockyards to the same property on Iron Works Pike met with stiff resistance from many Georgetown officials and neighbors. The plan was abandoned after then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher asked the stockyards’ owners not to pursue the move because of the upcoming 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games at the Horse Park.
Many people who opposed the move then oppose it now.
Grant County is going to have its ark, and we’re going to have a cow palace
Charlie Denham, a neighbor who opposes the proposed stockyards site
The stockyards wants to build a 186,600-square-foot sales pavilion on land that includes the aquifer feeding Georgetown’s water supply. The property straddles Fayette and Scott counties. Stockyard officials say the building would not be on the land that feeds Royal Springs. The previous plans had the building on land that directly feeds the aquifer.
The stockyards’ current plan includes building two large detention ponds, with filters, for all storm water on the site. The group plans to hook to a municipal sewer system in Georgetown or Fayette County. The plan includes regular removal of manure from the property and a fence along the property to dampen noise. The stockyards are a marketplace and not a slaughter house. Animals are moved quickly from the site after a sale, stockyards officials have said.
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.
Last week, a Georgetown water oversight body requested that the stockyards conduct additional testing at the site. In addition, the group recommended that no blasting occur during construction and that the stockyards have a plan for groundwater plan — water that is in the ground and doesn’t come from rain.
The wellhead protection committee’s recommendations will be forwarded to the Board of Adjustment. But the recommendations of the group of engineers and planners are just that — recommendations.
Charlie Denham lives in the Spindletop neighborhood, which is close to the site. Denham, a civil engineer who spent much of his career building or managing landfills, said he looked at Kentucky Geological Survey tests on the Royal Springs aquifer and on the proposed site for the stockyards. Denham said he’s not convinced the proposed building is not on land that drains into the water supply.
Denham and others plan to speak in opposition to the conditional use permit Friday.
“I think there is too big a risk in putting it there,” Denham said. “This is not the best place geologically for a stockyard to be.”
Denham said he also is concerned that the large stockyards building is going to be too close to the interstate.
“It’s an enormous building, and people are going to see it,” he said. “Grant County is going to have its ark, and we’re going to have a cow palace.” A controversial ark-themed park is scheduled to open this summer in Grant County.
Akers said Thursday that stockyards officials have been working with the state Division of Water on the groundwater and storm water plans. The state has to give its OK before the stockyards may be built, Akers said.
He said he understands people’s concerns about water contamination. The group is working with engineers and with city and local officials to ensure that contaminants don’t make it into the water supply, Akers said.
“The last thing I can afford to do is give us a black eye at the center of our operations,” he said.