Politics & Government

Lawmaker withdraws proposal that would have opened Lexington farmland to developers

The sponsor of a controversial measure in the state legislature that Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton said would take away local control of planning decisions withdrew it Thursday night.

Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, said there had been a lot of misinformation about his proposed amendment to House Bill 346 and what it would do.

“This does not do anything to take away local control,” Carpenter said.

His decision to withdraw the amendment came after Gorton, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and the Kentucky League of Cities opposed it, saying it would allow development on agricultural land and put Fayette County’s growth boundary in jeopardy.

The growth boundary in Lexington has protected farms from development for 61 years, Gorton said.

“This amendment throws the notion of local control out the window and instead allows the state to overreach and take over local land use and economic development decisions,” Gorton said.

The Kentucky League of Cities said the proposal would rob cities of local control over land-use decisions and negate their comprehensive plans, which guide where development is allowed.

Carpenter’s amendment would have required cities to categorize farmland as vacant land available for development. Also, comprehensive plans would have to consider how much land a community will need over a 20-year period and be updated every five years in order to be used by a planning commission.

The amendment “negates every Comprehensive Plan within 15 months,” the Kentucky League of Cities warned in an email blast to its membership Wednesday evening.

Carpenter said earlier Thursday not all cities and counties update their comprehensive plans every five years, as required by law. Currently, there is no penalty for not updating those plans.

“I just want to make sure they have a plan,” he said.

Asked who is pushing the amendment, Carpenter said “I had a group who brought it to my attention because they know I deal with this kind of stuff.” He did not elaborate.

Comprehensive plans are adopted by local communities to guide development. In Fayette County, the Urban County Planning Commission approved the 2018 Comprehensive Plan last month. The plan defines where various types of commercial and residential development can be built.

Lexington is unique because it has a growth boundary, which protects agricultural land from development. That’s why the amendment was particularly problematic for Fayette County, Gorton said.

“It would require inclusion of agricultural land for development, effectively ending 61 years of careful protection of our rural landscaper and stripping our ability to control and plan growth at a local level,” Gorton said. “The amendment could easily lead to development that puts a strain on city services. It would do irreparable harm to Kentucky’s signature thoroughbred farms.”