Woodford County

Pro-bypass, anti-fracking among Woodford draft planning goals

A car traveled Wednesday along U.S. 62 between Midway and Versailles. Draft goals and objectives say local planners should promote and encourage a proposed bypass around the west side of Versailles, but some Midway residents say that would funnel big trucks onto U.S. 62 and into their city.
A car traveled Wednesday along U.S. 62 between Midway and Versailles. Draft goals and objectives say local planners should promote and encourage a proposed bypass around the west side of Versailles, but some Midway residents say that would funnel big trucks onto U.S. 62 and into their city. gkocher1@herald-leader.com

Proposed new planning and zoning “goals and objectives” for Woodford County include promoting and encouraging a stalled bypass project and protecting the county from fracking.

Other goals and objectives include encouraging energy-efficient construction, promoting the development of more starter homes and houses affordable to middle-income people, and the planning of housing for increasing senior and millennial populations.

The draft goals and objectives are to be discussed during a public hearing of the planning commission scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Woodford County Courthouse in Versailles.

The commission might vote to recommend the goals and objectives to the Versailles and Midway city councils and Woodford Fiscal Court, or the commission might recommend them at a later date, said planning director Pattie Wilson.

The proposed language was written as the county updates its comprehensive plan, the guide that outlines what the community sees as its transportation priorities, land-use needs, and goals for tourism, commercial development, employment, historic preservation and conservation of natural resources.

The plan, reviewed every five years, is a reference used by local decision-makers when weighing rezonings or which road improvements to pursue.

One listed transportation goal that might draw the most comment is to “promote and encourage” the Northwest Mobility Corridor, the proposed bypass around the west side of Versailles that was not included in the state’s six-year road plan earlier this year. The bypass would extend Ky. 2113 (Falling Springs Boulevard) on the southwestern side of town to a point at or near the intersection of U.S. 60 and U.S. 62 (Midway Road).

Some Midway residents objected to the road because they said it would funnel big trucks onto U.S. 62 and through their town. But some Versailles residents said the road is needed to reduce downtown congestion through the Woodford County seat.

“That will probably be the most discussed thing,” Wilson said.

Another goal says the commission should “protect Woodford County from fracking, especially the transportation of fracking byproducts like natural gas liquids.” Fracking is a drilling technique that led to an energy boom in the United States.

In 2013, Woodford Fiscal Court adopted a resolution opposing the Bluegrass Pipeline, which would have transported flammable natural gas liquids from drilling zones in Pennsylvania through West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. The companies proposing that pipeline halted the project in 2014.

Fracking remains a concern, however, as another pipeline project is proposed to go through other parts of Eastern and Central Kentucky. And low-level radioactive wastes resulting from out-of-state fracking were illegally dumped in an Estill County landfill.

Another stated goal is to maintain the acreage of the urban services area around Versailles but to allow for “justified expansions,” while considering the needs and impacts of the community.

Previously the planning commission’s goal was to adjust the urban service boundary but not to increase it. The boundary is designed to protect rural areas and farms from intrusion of urban uses, while providing sufficient land for urban development where public services such as water and sewer lines can be provided efficiently and effectively.

Debate has grown as more properties have sought to be annexed into the city. On Tuesday, for example, the Versailles City Council’s agenda is expected to include the annexation of hundreds of acres of Edgewood Farm into the city.

Another goal says local planners should “encourage and promote green construction in existing and proposed industrial areas.”

“Green construction” is typically defined as using energy-efficient, cost-effective, low-maintenance products for construction needs and leaving a lighter footprint on the environment through conservation of resources.

Another goal is to coordinate and plan housing for the rising senior and millennial populations of Woodford County. Another goal suggests planners “promote and encourage the development of more starter homes and homes affordable to middle-income residents.”

The average cost of a house in Versailles is $136,700, or nearly 25 percent lower than the national average of $181,400, according to the AreaVibes website.

Another goal says planners should support farm owners and operators in their efforts to continue viable agricultural activities “including but not limited to wheat and industrial hemp production and processing.”

Wheat is particularly of interest now as a baking company broke ground this week for a new plant in Versailles. The plant will make cookies, snack crackers and specialty gourmet crackers for national distribution, and local farmers are talking about the start-up of a local mill to supply the plant.

Suggestions for proposed goals and objectives came from an online survey and from a February public hearing, Wilson said.

Once the goals and objectives are approved by the local governments, the planning commission will review other chapters or “elements” of the comprehensive plan. Those elements provide more detail for the goals. State law doesn’t require the elements to be approved by local governments, but the commission has typically sent amendments to them in the past, Wilson said.