of Oldham County
Crisis - Oldham County struggles
to balance growth, serenity
Ahead! pushing efforts
to control growth
(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 countys infrastructure,
environment and rural heritage. One organization addressing these issues
is a nonprofit, non-partisan citizens group known as
are going up at Magnolia Place
subdivision in Crestwood, Ky.
Its a relatively unique quality of life to be in a metropolitan
area with rural flavor and open space, said Oldham Ahead! president
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 countys
strengths and weaknesses in the areas of business, environment, agriculture,
government and recreation and made recommendations for improvements.
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 countys economy
while preserving its character.
Oldham Countys 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 states 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,
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 countys roads, schools and utilities. From
1970 to 2000, Oldham Countys 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 countys
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 were looking for, said Kinser.
A dynamic study, one that can be updated regularly, is also important,
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 its not the growth itself, its 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 Pattons Smart Growth Task Force, Kentuckys
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 countys 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 Pattons
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 organizations 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.
Were 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 countys 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.
sees much economic potential in Oldham County
(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, thats
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 organizations
previous executive director who left last August.
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 bachelors
degree in advertising and business from Western Kentucky University.
Roarks 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 Commissioners
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 Countys
geographic position in relation to major interstate highways, railroad
and air transportation is a definite plus, according to Roark. Also
an advantage is Oldham Countys 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,
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
For more information on OCEDA activities, visit: www.oceda.com.
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