Development of Oldham County

Identity Crisis - Oldham County struggles
to balance growth, serenity

‘Oldham Ahead! pushing efforts
to control growth

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

(June 2003) – Some Oldham County residents are concerned about issues they say threaten the quality of life that so many have come to cherish in the north central Kentucky county. Of primary concern are the effects of rapid growth on the county’s infrastructure, environment and rural heritage. One organization addressing these issues is a nonprofit, non-partisan citizens group known as

Crestwood houses

Houses are going up at Magnolia Place
subdivision in Crestwood, Ky.

“Oldham Ahead!”
“It’s a relatively unique quality of life to be in a metropolitan area with rural flavor and open space,” said Oldham Ahead! president Prewitt Lane.
Rural flavor is one of the things that Lane and members of Oldham Ahead! are working to preserve. The organization formed in June 2000 as a result of a study called the “Countryside Exchange,” sponsored by the Glynwood Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the field of community stewardship. During the week-long program, a team of international land use and planning experts studied the county’s strengths and weaknesses in the areas of business, environment, agriculture, government and recreation and made recommendations for improvements.

Prewitt Lane

Prewitt Lane

Once the study was complete, local participants united to form Oldham Ahead!, which now has more than 400 members dedicated to implementing many of those recommendations. Specifically, its mission is “to promote the wise use of land and resources” in the county. The organization supports comprehensive land-use planning, economic development and advocacy efforts that enhance the county’s economy while preserving its character.
Oldham County’s geographic location reflects the challenges faced by the group and county officials as they plan for the future. Bordered on the southwest by Jefferson County, the state’s largest urban county, and by the rural counties of Trimble, Henry and Shelby to the north, east and southeast, the county struggles with an identity that is part rural farmland, part urban sprawl.
About 20 years ago, when Lane moved to Oldham County from Louisville, the line separating the two was more distinct. “The opportunity to drive through and live on green space was the initial draw,” Lane said.
Then, green space was plentiful. Subdivisions were sparsely situated throughout the county with plenty of rolling pastures in between. Stoplights and traffic were out of the ordinary.
To some extent, the description still fits. But rapid population growth and the exchange of farms for subdivisions has decreased green spaces and put strains on the county’s roads, schools and utilities. From 1970 to 2000, Oldham County’s population more than tripled, according to U.S. Census Bureau records. It continues to be one of the fastest growing counties in the state, with a population of more than 48,000 in 2001 and an average household income of more than $64,000. The county’s population is rising by nearly 4 percent each year, by some estimates.
Now the question being asked by Oldham Ahead! is this: What is the cost of such rapid growth? In an effort to answer this question and to help county officials plan for the future, the next project of the group is a cost of community services study. The study, a collaborative effort of Oldham Ahead! and county officials, would define the cost of residential development, farm and open land, and commercial and industrial development in relation to tax revenue.
“This study could be used (by county government) for budgeting and long-range planning,” said Lane.


Oldham County Judge-Executive Mary Ellen Kinser agrees that such a study is important in helping the county “fine-tune expenditures” and determine how best to utilize revenue. “A fiscal impact study is what we’re looking for,” said Kinser. A dynamic study, one that can be updated regularly, is also important, she said.
Not only would such a study help county officials, it would also help field concerns posed in a public opinion survey sponsored by the organization in 2001. The survey, conducted by Horizon Research International market research firm, was completed by 400 individuals representative of the demographic profile of the county. Individuals were asked their opinions concerning quality of life, growth management, economic development and future development of the county. Results of the survey indicated that the most important issue the county faces is maintaining the quality of public schools. Other issues of concern included: individual property rights; crime and drugs; school overcrowding; roads; economic development and jobs; water quality; and air quality.
All of these issues are affected by population growth, according to Lane. “But it’s not the growth itself, it’s how it takes place, he said. “Growth should occur in the right places in the county,” and in a “planned and orderly fashion.”
“Between 1982 and 1997,” according to a report of Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton’s Smart Growth Task Force, “Kentucky’s growth in developed acres outpaced the national average by 27 percent, making it the second highest rate of growth in the nation.”
One of the reasons Patton organized the task force in 2001 was to address growth issues. “Planned growth is smart growth,” said Patton when he unveiled the project. The task force, made up of representatives from around the state, discussed issues concerning agriculture, wildlife, the environment, planning, transportation and corridor management, community development and design, and economic development, then identified options in a November 2001 report.
In Oldham County, Kinser has created several working groups to address similar issues. One, the “Transportation Task Force,” is a 14-member advisory group that includes representatives from Fiscal Court, each of the county’s cities, the Chamber of Commerce and several other local and regional organizations. The task force, which held public meetings from March through May, will release the results of its study, the “Major Thoroughfare Plan Project,” by June 30, according to Oldham County Planning and Zoning Administrator Louise Allen. Estimates of future land use and resulting traffic, recommendations for road capacity standards, including how capacity is measured and how traffic impact studies should be performed, will be included in the report.
Other studies currently being conducted, said Allen, concern school capacity standards and water flow rate capacity standards. The study is all part of capacity planning, which Allen defined as “a measure of the ability to accommodate growth and development within the limits set by existing infrastructure resources and natural resource capabilities.”
Lane, who served on the economic development working committee of Patton’s Smart Growth Task Force, said that another way to plan for the future and manage growth is to entice and support economic development.
“Economic development is an integral part of growth management,” he said, pointing to his organization’s support of the Oldham County Economic Development Authority.
Another smart growth option, one supported by Oldham Ahead!, is land conservation. Last November, the group held a day-long seminar on land conservation options, one of them being the Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement Corporation (PACE). It was created by the Kentucky General assembly in 1994 authorizing the state to purchase agricultural conservation easements to ensure that lands currently in agricultural use will continue to remain available for agriculture and not be converted to other uses.
The seminar also discussed private conservation easements and land trusts, such as River Fields, the largest land trust in the state of Kentucky. “We’re probably not going to be in land trust ourselves, but we want to promote getting the word out,” said Lane.
Spreading the word, not just about conservation but about all of their efforts, is one thing Oldham Ahead! is currently concentrating on. “One of our challenges as an organization is outreach,” said Lane.
Ultimately, the group would like to serve as an umbrella organization that could provide guidance and assistance to homeowners associations, organize community improvement activities, provide representatives at public meetings, promote agricultural and equine industries and preserve the county’s historical, cultural and environmental resources.
“To do that we need more people actively involved in our group” Currently the group has a mailing list of 600. Has two employees, a planner on retainer and a part-time, executive director, Nina Walfort.

Roark sees much economic potential in Oldham County

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

(June 2003) – With 11 years o f successful economic development experience in Kentucky to his credit, James Roark should be just the person to promote economic development in Oldham County. At least, that’s what the Oldham County Economic Development Authority (OCEDA) board of directors is counting on. After conducting a nationwide search, in February the board selected Roark to replace Amanda Sinnette, the organization’s previous executive director who left last August.

James Roark

James Roark

Roark, 42, came to Oldham County in March from Springfield, Ky., where he served as executive director of the Springfield-Washington County Economic Development Authority. During his six years there, Roark helped attract six new industries, facilitated the expansion of 11 major existing industries and the development of two business parks in the central Kentucky county.
Prior to Springfield, Roark was the executive director of Muhlenberg Economic Enterprises in Greenville, Ky., for nearly five years. Before that, he was the advertising director for Rayben Tire Co., a 20-store retail chain with headquarters in Evansville, Ind. He holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising and business from Western Kentucky University.
Roark’s track record of successful economic development and his interest in Oldham County, said OCEDA board chairman Fran Scott, is what made him a top candidate. “His success in Washington County and the recognition he received for that success were certainly things that, before we even met him, called attention to him,” said Scott.
That success includes development of the approximately 453-acre “Clearview Commerce Center,” which received a $1.65 million block grant from the state and the Kentucky Department for Local Government Commissioner’s Award of Excellence for exemplary implementation of the grant.
In Oldham County, Roark faces a completely different set of variables. Fortunately, most of them are advantageous, he said. Oldham County’s geographic position in relation to major interstate highways, railroad and air transportation is a definite plus, according to Roark. Also an advantage is Oldham County’s proximity to Louisville, the largest city in the state.
“As much success as we had in Springfield, I would say that Oldham County trumps Springfield in just about every category that businesses are looking for except one,” Roark said. That one, according to Roark, is community control of property.
The advantages of community controlled property to new businesses are many. Roark cited “Clearview Commerce Park” as an example. Before marketing the property, Springfield ran water and sewer lines to the entrance and installed 1,900 feet of gravel access road. Then when the first tenant was secured, the city qualified for the community development block grant, which it used to run water and sewer lines the rest of the way into the property and to complete and pave the access road. Those initiatives saved potential tenants of the businesses park time and money, Roark said.
The same kind of initiatives employed in Springfield, according to Roark, could also help Oldham County meet its economic development goals. Those basic goals include:
• Creating employment opportunities;
• Raising per capita income;
• Attracting capital investment;
• Generating revenue for local government.
“Any project that (OCEDA) works on would be measured on one or preferably more than one of these goals,” and that they be environmentally sustainable, Roark said.
Roark said he anticipates little development along Hwy. 22 or Hwy. 42 since they are primarily residential areas. Instead, the I-71 corridor, what he called “the top economic driver of the community,” will be the first priority. That includes the Oldham County Business Park, located parallel to I-71 between the Buckner and La Grange interchanges.
Although the 700-acre park is privately owned by several different individuals, OCEDA has an option on a 25-acre parcel in the park that it is currently marketing, according to Scott. “We can exercise the option to purchase it directly from (the owners) or we can sell it to a potential business,” said Scott.
Traditionally, economic development in Kentucky has focused on manufacturing. But according to Roark, Oldham County Business Park, as well as the entire county, is better suited to a mix of enterprises including more professional-technical businesses, small light manufacturing concerns and non-traditional economic ventures characterized by higher-end capital investments per acre and higher personal income generation when compared with large factories and bulk storage warehouses. High-tech and professional companies, which provide high-skilled, high-paying jobs, are especially desirable and will be the focus of a large part of his efforts, Roark said.

• For more information on OCEDA activities, visit: www.oceda.com.

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