The Bluegrass Stockyards — destroyed in a devastating fire Jan. 30 — is proposing to rebuild and relocate on a 100-acre site off Ironworks Pike near the Kentucky Horse Park. The site straddles two counties, Fayette and Scott, and the use straddles two interests that often come into conflict: economic vitality and environmental protection.
This project has the potential to serve as a case example in balancing this wide range of interests. Or, rebalancing.
Friday, the Lexington-Fayette County Board of Adjustment will consider the stockyards’ application for a variance to locate there for the second time.
In 2005, the stockyards applied for a zoning variance to relocate to the Ironworks Pike location. Ultimately, that very controversial application was turned down by the Board of Adjustment, citing concerns about its impact on the Royal Spring aquifer which supplies Georgetown with clean drinking water.
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We expect, and hope, the outcome will be different this week. Not because the important economic interests served by the stockyards have triumphed over environmental concerns but because the stockyards and those who jealously guard the aquifer, the government and other interests involved appear to have come together in good faith to find a scientifically sound way to build and operate the stockyards while protecting the water supply.
What’s different this time?
First, the facility has been moved so that it no longer sits over the aquifer. “The current site design is a vast improvement over the previous submission from the perspective of protecting the aquifer,” Lexington’s planning staff wrote in its evaluation of the application.
The design also provides detailed information about how animal waste will not be exposed to rain and so won’t pollute runoff. The buildings are also to be constructed for good air flow to reduce odor, and water from the site directed into detention basins.
The stockyards, principally represented by CEO Jim Akers, has taken pains to meet with Georgetown and Scott County officials and offered a member of the group formed in 2005 to protect Royal Spring a spot at the table as designs move forward.
Georgetown Mayor Tom Prather described the approach this round as “far more professional.” Prather also noted that Fayette County officials have provided available data related to the stockyards’ impact on its former location on Lisle Industrial Boulevard, and helped work through other issues as they arose.
Prather hopes this new spirit of cooperation can extend to improving sanitary-sewer services for the mobile home park that borders the proposed site. The stockyards’ application says it plans to hook into a municipal sewer system and Prather would like to see that line enlarged to include service for the park, which has almost 500 units on about 120 acres, the bulk in Scott County but some in Fayette.
Such a move would not only be a boon for the quality of life of park occupants but also a gain for groundwater quality.
Residents of the park, where some flooding is already reported, are also concerned that the new facility could exasperate those problems, as hard surfaces like parking and roofs replace undeveloped land. Both stockyards planners and governmental officials who oversee storm water management must take care to protect this vulnerable community from flooding.
The stockyards serves all of Central Kentucky, providing a local market for the valuable livestock essential to maintaining our famed grasslands. But those grasslands, and our quality of life, also rely on careful environmental stewardship.
Too often, those goals are set at odds; this time, we hope they will support each other.