Garrard begins arduous task of planning for future

February 13, 2004|JIM LOGAN

LANCASTER - The Garrard County Planning Commission learned two things Thursday night: It will need a lot more public input, and writing a Comprehensive Plan for the county will be neither quick nor easy.

"I think it's a long process," said Chairman Dick Brunson. "It's gonna be incredibly difficult."

The commission was established by the Fiscal Court to develop a Comprehensive Plan for the county. Its mission is to gather as much input from county residents as possible, write a plan and submit it to magistrates for consideration and approval.

"We're a steering committee," said commissioner Carl Todd. "We need this input. We're just trying to prevent disaster."

The idea behind writing the plan is simple: Growth and change are inevitable and it's in the county's best interest to plan for them. The content of that plan, commissioners said repeatedly Thursday night, should be determined by the people who will have to live with it.


"It's the people in Garrard County that ultimately have the responsibility for the county, not the government," Brunson said.

The commissioners said the plan should consider such topics as land use, infrastructure, education, recreation - the gamut of issues that affect the quality of life in the county.

But the difficulties in finding any kind of consensus were apparent.

Billy Conn, a farmer who said he was speaking for others in the county, said change isn't necessarily needed or wanted.

"I think the farmers want things to stay the way they are now," he said.

Others, however, said the time is right to start planning for the future.

Danny Irvin, a real estate professional and developer, suggested the county needs to catch up with its neighbors. Of the 17 counties in the Bluegrass Area Development District, Garrard is one of only four that doesn't have a Comprehensive Plan.

"It's hard for me to believe that all the other counties are wrong and we're right," said Irvin.

Commissioner Ray Woolsey, who is superintendent of the Garrard County Board of Education, said the county must "plan or suffer."

Assumptions made years ago about what the schools would need in the future were "flawed," he said. For instance, it wasn't hard to predict that the north part of the county would see big population growth.

What wasn't foreseen, however, was that the real increase in the number of children would be in Cartersville.

The problem, Woolsey said, is that homes in the north end, which typically attract commuters from Lexington, are still beyond the reach of young families, who tend to buy the smaller homes found in places like Paint Lick and Cartersville.

"So we don't make the same mistakes," he said, the county must be prepared. "The plan is the most important thing."

"We've got to get people involved so we can be ready for the next five, 10 years," Woolsey said. "We've got to have a plan together before we can ever decide what we're gonna do."

The key, he said, is public participation. It's the county's residents who know what they want, not the commission.

"I guarantee there isn't a member of the board who knows a thing about planning and zoning," Woolsey said.

Although specific suggestions for the Comprehensive Plan were few, the commissioners were upbeat about the beginning of the process. "It's a start," said Roger Miller. "I think it's something we can build on."

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