Property rights group fights planning move in Garrard

April 28, 2004|JIM LOGAN

LANCASTER - Garrard County's drive to adopt a comprehensive plan for the future is being targeted for demolition by a group of business owners who fear that it would trample private property rights.

"We're just a bunch of concerned citizens," said Mike Dotson, who owns the BP gas station at U.S. 27 and Ky. 34. "I don't think the people are ready for it. That's what they tell us; they're totally against it."

The opposition centers on the widespread belief that the still-unwritten plan, if adopted by the Fiscal Court, would usher in planning and zoning. The latter, which typically regulates land use, is considered an un-American abomination to those who don't believe their property should be subject to any regulation.

"We've got more important things to do than telling people what to do," said Kenneth "Ug" Robinson, who owns Robinson Auto & Equipment on Ky. 34.


Meeting set for 7 p.m. Thursday

Robinson, Dotson and others have scheduled a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Garrard County Fairgrounds for residents to voice their objections to zoning.

They've also placed "petitions" in businesses that ask, "Do you want a Planning & Zoning Board telling you what to do with your land? When you can develop your land?"

The questions are followed by the two columns, "Against" and "For," and space for about 25 signatures in each row.

Dotson said he's had around 500 people sign, with only about 50 in the pro-planning column.

"We basically want the people to decide," Robinson said. "It's as simple as that."

The outcry over the perceived threat of zoning has dogged the work of the Garrard Planning Commission, a group of volunteers appointed by the Fiscal Court to come up with a comprehensive plan. In a series of meetings over the past two months around the county to gather ideas on planning, the panel has been bombarded with complaints about zoning.

Panel interested in planning, not zoning

Dick Brunson, the commission's chairman, has repeatedly stressed that the panel is not interested in zoning, only planning. With the county growing quickly - its population swelled by 6.5 percent in 2003 - Brunson and the other members of the commission have argued that planning now for the future is the best way to preserve Garrard's quality of life.

Many of the zoning opponents concede that some planning is a good idea, but they're still convinced that the comprehensive plan is simply a Trojan horse for increasingly restrictive zoning.

And they see the hand of the Fiscal Court behind it. "Most of our magistrates seem to be for it no matter what the rest of the people think," Dotson said.

Two of the magistrates, Joe Leavell and Walter "Tiddle" Hester, have been outspoken in their support of planning and some zoning.

Leavell in particular has been accused of ignoring the will of his constituents by advocating for planning. He insists, however, that he's doing exactly what he campaigned for, and that it's not clear a majority are against planning and zoning.

"I have people come up to me all the time that are for it"

"I have people come to me all the time that are for it," he said. "They're just quiet about it."

Robinson says the first-term magistrate, a farmer and owner of VIP Express on Stanford Road, would be "obligated to vote against" planning and zoning if a majority opposed it.

"I want to listen to reason," Leavell said. "We need something and they don't want anything. Period."

Judging from previous commission meetings, Thursday's gathering of zoning opponents has the potential for being heated. "Nobody's asked the majority to stand up and vote," said Robinson. "We're not going down without a fight this time."

That's fine, said Brunson, who says he understands that dissent is part of the process - and that it can, at times, prevail.

"If they get enough support behind them to eliminate planning," he said, "that's kind of the way democracies work."

It might be like walking into hostile territory, but Brunson plans to attend Thursday's meeting. "I'm kind looking forward to it," he said. "They talk the talk and walk the walk. Let's see what happens. It's certainly interested them in planning. "

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