Friday, December 14, 2012

'Tourist destination' amendment to zoning ordinance is on its way to Fiscal Court and city councils

By Cassandra Shouse
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

VERSAILLES – “Tourist destinations” would be allowed in rural areas of Woodford County under the countywide zoning ordinance if the Fiscal Court and the Midway and Versailles city councils go along with last night’s vote of the Planning Commission.

After a second public hearing, the commission voted 8-1 to adopt a revised version of the amendment to the ordinance. Although the revisions dealt with some of the issues that brought objections at the last hearing, citizens such as Libby Jones of Midway still said it needed more work.

Jones, right, the wife of former governor Brereton Jones and his partner in Airdrie Stud, said the traffic created by tourist destinations could have harmful effects on the horse farms of Woodford County. She urged the commission, “Please do not adopt this amendment as it is written; please go back to the drawing board one more time and address the issue of how the rights of the neighbors can be protected.”

Nathan Billings, an attorney representing property owners in the Pisgah Historic District, had several issues with the proposal. He said it was special legislation for the CastlePost, a home made to look like a castle at the junction of Pisgah Pike and Lexington Road, that has converted to a bed and breakfast. He said “it’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room that everyone knows about, and no one wants to acknowledge.”

Billings said the definition of a landmark added to the proposal was vague and unconstitutional. The proposed amendment defines a landmark as “any site, building, structure, or natural feature that has visual, historic, or cultural significance.” He also said the definition of “tourist destinations” and “tourist destinations expanded” were in complete violation of the Comprehensive Plan adopted by the commission, the county and the cities.

Another resident, Tom Brown, didn’t think the proposal is necessary. Noting that a special board does individual assessments of property in agricultural zones whose owners would like to open to tourism, Brown said the commission should “adopt an approach similar to the current ag-tourism review and assessment used by the Agricultural Advisory Review Board.” Since it’s only one property, the CastlePost, that prompted this proposal, Brown said it would be better to do an assessment similar to the ag-tourism review, so a proposal that could be used as a zoning backdoor wouldn’t be necessary.

Jim Boggs was the only commission member to vote against the proposal.

UPDATE, Jan. 7: The Lexington Herald-Leader examines the proposal.

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