Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Intergovernmental panel recommends removing Versailles bypass from planning objectives, but not plan

By Marjorie Kirk
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Representatives from Midway, Versailles and the Woodford County Fiscal Court have proposed changes to goals and objectives approved by the county Planning Commission, including removing the Versailles bypass project.

State Department of Highways map
Midway City Council members Daniel Roller, Libby Warfield and Sara Hicks met with three members of the Versailles City Council and three Fiscal Court magistrates Oct. 4 to discuss contentious items in the goals and objectives for the county’s comprehensive plan, which the planning commission approved Sept. 8 by a vote of 5-3.

The intergovernmental group proposed that the objective specifying the bypass expansion read more generally: “Pursue projects that minimize traffic on main streets and narrow residential streets including, but not limited to an alternative route,” which could be the bypass.

References to the bypass remain in the details of the plan, Council Member Dan Roller noted after the meeting when asked why Versailles representatives were willing to accept the change.

Traffic congestion in Versailles has been the impetus for the bypass project, which Gov. Matt Bevin removed from the state’s road plan during budget cuts early this year.

The planning commission has one member from Midway, Rich Schein, who argued during its September meeting that the bypass, as well as other projects, should be left out of the goals and objectives. He said building the bypass was not the desire of people in Woodford County, and that it would bisect the county’s main parks.

Schein reiterated his objections Monday as the Midway City Council held a public forum on the commission’s plan, which it had sent to the local legislative bodies for approval.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift commended Schein and the other dissenters. “It is bizarre to me that the commission passed these goals and objectives when all three bodies immediately realized there was a problem and they would have to come back and fix it,” he said. “That leaves me scratching my head.”

If the bypass is built, traffic would be diverted from Versailles, but at the risk of increasing traffic on Midway Road, US 62. Possible northern ends of the bypass include going directly into Midway Road, a bit farther north on Frankfort Road (US 60) or the intersection of the existing bypass and US 62. Representatives from Midway object to putting more traffic on narrow Midway Road. 

“I don’t support doing so without trying other sound suggestions which to date have been ignored and which might avoid dumping the problem on their next-door neighbor,” Vandegrift said.

One transportation objective proposed by the commission calls for planned to “discourage thru tractor-trailer traffic from certain routes, including downtown Versailles and Midway Road.” The intergovernmental panel proposed that the objective be to “discourage and divert” big trucks from both roads.

The panel also found issue with one of the objectives for general land use and development, which called for “justified expansions” of cities’ urban services areas rather than the current “some limited adjustments.” In its written report, the panel said that “was replacing one unclear term with another.”

Magistrate Mary Ann Gill proposed that the objective be “Manage the location of the urban services boundaries to meet the needs of the cities, considering the community as a whole.” The panel reported that it did not reach a consensus on that point, and Vandegrift said it will need to meet again.

Vandegrift said the creation and success of the intergovernmental panel would be a step toward his goal of collaborating and meeting with the Versailles City Council and the Fiscal Court on a regular basis. The panel included half of each city council and three of the nine Fiscal Court members. He said Versailles officials like the idea but at least some magistrates do not. 

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