Garrard planning commission to meet in each magistrate's district

February 25, 2004|JIM LOGAN

LANCASTER - Imagine, for just a moment, that you're a member of a family that's eager to know what your neighbors think your yard should look like this summer. You invite everyone over, but only one person shows up, and she's convinced you're going to tell her what kind of yard she will have.

If you can picture that, then you have some idea what it's like to be on the Garrard County Planning Commission.

The panel held its first meeting two weeks ago to gather opinions on the county's future from residents. Attendance was modest. A good chunk of the time was spent trying to explain that its members only wanted ideas, and had no interest in telling people what they could do with their property.

So the commission has decide to come to you.

Starting March 8, the panel of volunteers will meet in each of the Fiscal Court's five districts, starting with Magistrate Joe Leavell's in Lancaster. After that, the commission is planning to meet on successive Monday nights in the districts of Marvin Conn, Larry Teater, F.C. Foley and Walter "Tiddle" Hester. Times and locations have yet to be decided.


The idea of the road tour is to get maximum participation and input from the public.

But it's apparent that the commission's purpose is misunderstood by a sizable number of people.

Commissioner Ronnie Lamb said Tuesday night that he's been approached by people who are concerned that what the panel is really working toward is what they consider an assault on property rights: zoning.

Essentially legal restrictions on what can and can't be done on property, zoning irritates those who don't want any restrictions on their land. Garrard County, which flirted with a comprehensive plan in the 1970s, has no planning and zoning laws.

For the commissioners, any talk about zoning is off-base and premature by years.

"We're not the zoning commission," said Dick Brunson, the commission's chairman. "We're on the Planning Commission."

Panel created to draft comprehensive plan

The eight-member panel was created by the Fiscal Court to draft a comprehensive plan for the county, then pass it on to the magistrates for consideration, tweaking and adoption.

The plan is supposed to be a sweeping blueprint for the county's future on such issues as education, housing, recreation, infrastructure, health care and land use. To do that, the commission wants to know what residents think.

Should the county become a bedroom community for Lexington? Should it try to attract industry? Will it need a hospital one day? More schools? New roads? The issues seem endless.

"If you can just get the point across that all we're here for is to plan for 30, 40, 50 years down the road," said Commissioner Jim Flynn.

The problem, the panel's members are discovering, is that it's difficult for some people to separate planning and zoning. The former, they seem to intuit, leads to the latter. And that, it appears, leads to a certain mistrust of the commission.

"Some people are never going to be happy no matter what we do," said commissioner John Dixon.

Even if it can't please everyone, the commission knows it needs to get the word out about its real job: creating a comprehensive plan.

The commission's task is daunting and long-term, but the stakes are high.

"The purpose of the commission is the future of the county," said Dixon.

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