Darren Doyle, story
Today’s fiscal court heard from two representatives of the Barren River Area District Development Office as they discussed the very basics of setting up zoning in a Kentucky county. This comes in the wake of unhappy residents in Rocky Hill that are now fighting potential buyers of the existing gas plant in their community that they feel was built without their concern.
While it may be too late to do anything about the gas plant, Judge Cannon has expressed his interest in protecting Edmonson County residents from other large businesses and industries from building factories and other entities that could be a nuisance to neighborhoods and farms.
Gene Becker, Associate Director of BRADD, said his organization helps local governments with a multitude of issues, one being to help set up zoning ordinances and plans that are custom-fit for each county. Brittany Fisher, also with BRADD and a certified planner who has recently worked with the Elizabethtown Planning Commission, addressed the court as well.
“You’d have to zone your entire area of jurisdiction,” she said. “You can’t just zone one intersection, or one corridor around a road. You’d have to look at zoning your entire county.” She went on to explain that from the surface, it would appear that Edmonson County could be zoned in three parts: Agricultural, Residential, and Industrial/Commercial. In theory, that does seem like the easiest option, but it also raises many other questions. What about the family who wants to build on the back side of someone’s farm? How do you distinguish the difference between agricultural and residential in such a rural county where farms take up the majority of property?
She also noted that if Edmonson County was zoned, it could not affect existing homes and establishments, no matter how portions were zoned. These would be considered “grandfathered.”
Judge Cannon brought up the gas plant and how it had negatively affected the people of Rocky Hill. He asked the representatives, “We started thinking about things we could do to keep this from ever happening again, and it seems zoning would be the only way to do that, is that correct?”
“Zoning is the best mechanism, and it’s more universal,” answered Fisher. She also noted that some places use noise and pollution ordinances, but those are very difficult to enforce. “It’s easier to do it through zoning.”
Mr. Becker discussed the first issue that BRADD would begin with. “We’d do a survey of the county, look at existing land uses, meet with the Planning Commission and guide you through our recommendations for how areas could be zoned.” He said there could be a fee involved, but there would also be programs available that might be able to fund the service. “We would recommend following the advice of legal counsel of course, but yes, we can help guide you through this process."
Several more questions were asked during the discussion, but the bottom line was this: BRADD only wants to make recommendations of what they feel would work best, based on similar counties, and is able to guide the county government through the process, but it’s ultimately up to the fiscal court as to if, how, and when, zoning would happen in Edmonson County. It's also important to note that once zoning is put in place, it can be changed or amended at any time with planning commission and county government approval.
“I want this to be as user-friendly to our citizens as possible,” said Cannon. “We don’t want to waste our time and money coming up with something that’s not going to be usable, but we do want to protect our people from things like a garbage dump being put into a residential area.”