Property Rights, Preservation Clash in Central Kentucky

Heated debates have taken place across the Central Kentucky horse farming community over a proposal to develop a portion of Pope McLean’s 500-acre Crestwood Farm near Georgetown, Ky.

On April 12, the proposal, which calls for 31 houses on 59 acres with a permanent 95-acre agricultural offset, went before the Georgetown-Scott County Planning Commission, which will make a final decision on the matter by May 10.

“(The proposal) enables the farmer to have part of the land zoned and protect the majority of it,” said Pope McLean Jr. “We’re just trying to protect our property rights more than anything. Just because we’ve established this doesn’t mean we have to do it. I’ve noticed that everyone is worrying about protecting horse farms, but in Kentucky, there’s not as much focus on protecting the industry itself.”

Crestwood is located near the Fayette/Scott County line. Southern Scott County adjoins with Fayette County, which recently made the decision to maintain its Urban Services Area, where urban development is permitted.

Though Crestwood is in an agriculture area, zoning in that area permits cluster zoning that concentrates houses on a smaller number of acres so the majority of land stays undeveloped.

“It’s everybody’s right to do what you want to do, but why are you in the (horse) business if you’re going to develop horse farm land that will potentially cause a domino effect,” said Joe Clay of Runnymede Farm near Paris, Ky. “Everybody has to be committed to trying to preserve this land.”

“This area is smack in the middle of the horse farm belt,” said Chris Newton, owner of Antebellum Farm, which is located behind Crestwood. “I wouldn’t say I’m against development, but being a longtime Lexington resident heavily invested in the horse business, I would like to see intelligent development. My main concern is that it’s happening by individuals that have been in horse farming for generations.”

One of the other concerns about the proposed development is the lack of storm sewers in the area, as the houses proposed for Crestwood’s property would be on situated on septic fields, which have the potential of overflowing. Crestwood is located near the Kentucky Horse Park, site of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

In addition to making a decision about the proposed development, the commission is considering a comprehensive plan that would preserve farm land in Scott County. According to Newton, several agricultural groups have pushed for a moratorium on cluster developments until details surrounding the plans are further studied.

According the Lexington Herald-Leader, Pope McLean Jr. submitted a request in 2006 to Lexington’s planning commission to include 475 acres on Spurr Road in Fayette County in the Urban Services Area so it could be developed. The request was denied.

“I love this industry--this is what we make our living on and we’re in it for the long haul, but we also have to protect our interests,” McLean said. “No one knows what the future holds for this industry; I’m just trying to protect myself. For a farmer, the land is a major asset, and in some regard is like a retirement plan.”