Fayette County Community Unites Against Football Complex Development

In response to the approval of a football complex in an agricultural and rural area, which once housed the Ashwood Training Center on Russell Cave Road, just outside Lexington, Kentucky, members of the equine and Fayette County Farmers gathered for a meeting, hosted by the Fayette Alliance at Greg Goodman’s Mt. Brilliant Farm, on the evening of Wednesday, July 13, to discuss the implications and potential next steps.

Fayette Alliance, a nonprofit citizen organization dedicated to achieving equitable and sustainable growth in Lexington-Fayette County through land use advocacy, education, and research , addressed issues the football complex poses to the land, surrounding horse and farm operations, and existing zoning ordinances that protect rural areas in a letter released to the public on Monday.

The proposed plan for the football complex was presented to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government’s Board of Adjustment on June 28 by Anderson Communities, on behalf of the Lexington Sporting Club, which applied to re-zone the ground so that the football complex of 12 pitches and 750 parking spaces could be built.

The application was submitted for the conditional use of land in the agricultural-rural zone. Under the current policy, outdoor recreational facilities are permitted as a conditional use, which ensures that in certain circumstances and in certain locations, these can be approved.

City of Lexington professional planning staff recommended approving the plan for conditional use, although it is subject to 19 conditions that were outlined in order to support this recommendation for approval.

Although dozens of community members expressed opposition to the development at the initial hearing, Council approved the complex on a 60-acre portion of a larger 150-acre agricultural parcel, located between Russell Cave Road , Newtown Pike and the I-75 freeways. and I-64. The site plan has the football fields located near the southeast border of the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Sales Fields, with the fields adjacent to Coach Ken McPeek’s Magdalena Farm.

The board also opted to remove the “most critical and protective” terms recommended by planning staff, including those that stated Lexington Sporting Club would be required to work with Fasig-Tipton on hours/ dates of football tournaments. prisoners, and those aimed at preserving the integrity of the agricultural-rural zone.

“As a result, the next two pieces of the Football Proposal will continue to move forward. They will amend the Zoning Text Ordinance, which means the proposed policy changes the language of our Ordinance which guides how we develop in a rural area, and the first is to license the lights, concessions and retail sales associated with the 12-field football complex,” said Brittany Roethemeier, executive director of the Fayette Alliance, at Wednesday’s meeting. .

“This means that anywhere in the agricultural-rural zone, which is adjacent to the economic development zone, would be allowed to have these uses. The second will be to authorize soccer stadiums in an economic development zone. By allowing a soccer stadium, we are also changing the intent of what is supposed to be done in the economic development zone.

In addition to amending existing zoning ordinances, Lexington Sporting Club plans to build a 10,000-person stadium and thousands of additional surface parking spaces in the nearby Economic Development Zone, which is specifically designated as a category of zoning to promote jobs and job creation.

Vince Gabbert, who recently left Keeneland, is the chairman of Sporting Club. Bill Shively of Dixiana Farm is the majority owner of the new club.

The Fayette Alliance, and industry members and stakeholders who support the industry, are concerned that approval of the resort, along with changes in zoning policy, will not only destroy the protection afforded to them by the Lexington’s urban service boundary, allowing for extensive development across the bluegrass, but also directly impacting the equine and agricultural industries which generate an economic impact of $2.3 billion per year.

Roethemeier pointed to the damaging precedent this would set for how uses in the agricultural and rural area will be assessed in the future.

“This land is finished. Once it’s developed, there’s no redoing, there’s no decision that can be reversed. The territory of our agricultural-rural zone is protected in order to preserve the rural character of our service area by promoting agricultural uses. It aims to discourage all forms of urban development except for a limited number of conditional uses,” she said. “If we allow these types of commercial and urban uses in our agricultural zone, what is the next step? It’s not about football. It may be a football complex this time, it will be something else next time, and as urban sprawl continues to shift it threatens the finite resource of farmland that holds us all together so much to heart.

“This fight and this opposition is not about football. It is a matter of land use, because land use affects future generations. Your children, your grandchildren, our future, this is what is impacted by these types of political decisions.

Fayette Alliance is in the process of filing an appeal of the Board of Adjustment’s decision with the Circuit Court, which must be filed within 30 days from the date the decision was made. They also file an open registration request to understand how the decision was made, when the decision was made, and how the decision was made to remove so many conditions presented by the planning staff.

“While it is not our job to help Lexington Sporting Club find an alternate location, we are absolutely willing to keep the lines of communication open to identify a solution. We believe there are countless other plots of existing land and facilities throughout the community that can be used for football, but our farms are irreplaceable,” Roethemeier said.

Nearly 100 community members attended Wednesday’s meeting to show their support, including thoroughbred industry players such as Ned Toffey, managing director of Spendthrift Farm; Everett Dobson, owner of Cheyenne Stables and Candy Meadow Farm; Bret Jones, Vice President of Airdrie Stud; John Phillips, owner of Darby Dan Farm; Tony Lacy, Vice President of Keeneland Sales; Cormac Breathnach, Director of Business Operations of Keeneland; Boyd Browning Jr., CEO and Chairman of Fasig-Tipton; Chauncey Morris, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association (KTA) and Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders (KTOB); Gary Biszants, owner of Cobra Farm; Lee Carter, executive director of Kentucky Horse Park; Helen Alexander, owner of Middlebrook Farm.

Bruce Simpson, a land use lawyer who is representing Fayette Alliance in its appeal, spoke about the process for reversing a Board of Adjustment decision and why filing the appeal is so important.

“Make no mistake, it’s not just football pitches and a football stadium, it’s an entertainment complex. They want to have concerts, political rallies, all kinds of things stadiums do to generate money,” Simpson said. “As a land use lawyer, this Board of Adjustment approved case is a serious threat. I am not exaggerating this case. Anytime you can get a precedent like this, like what happened with the football pitches, it’s going to be grabbed somewhere else.

Goodman also shared that Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton, although unable to attend the meeting, was fully supportive of opposition to the development of the football complex, which she made clear in letters to the planning staff, to the Planning Commission and in an upcoming Op/Ed in The leader of the heralds.

“Over the past 10 years, with other local organizations, we’ve been able to address land use issues and they haven’t been as public. It couldn’t be resolved, so we have to fight for it,” Goodman said.

Samantha Will-Bacarri, whose farm neighbors Goodman’s, raised questions about what would happen if the football complex, along with proposed amendments to the zoning text ordinance, were approved.

“If, in wild circumstances, we fail to address these two upcoming Zoning Enforcement Ordinance Amendments, our next step is to propose Zoning Enforcement Ordinance Amendments to fill the gaps. of our zoning ordinance. That’s what our next step will be, to do a similar job of coming up with language that will prevent this from happening again. Frankly, it’s probably something we’re going to do regardless,” Roethemeier said. “After this fight, there will be another, and there will be another, and politics matter. That is why. Going forward, we need to be really aware of these policies.

Along with the farm owners and industry members in attendance, Cathy Ploman, in her third term as the 12th member of the Lexington District Council, was there to show her support.

“We are the horse capital of the world. It’s our brand. We are known around the world, yet here we are violating the integrity of this wonderful thing that we are, have, and are blessed to have. Putting these football pitches, plus parking spaces, next to Fasig-Tipton is just a complete violation and it’s reckless. We have to do better than that,” Ploman said.

Opposition support for the football complex was strong, and Roethemeier and Simpson stressed the importance of maintaining and developing this development, particularly with regard to the next meeting of the Planning Commission, which will be held on Thursday. July 28 at 1:30 p.m. at City Salle.

“It is absolutely essential, in my almost 30 years of dealing with these cases, that you all come forward. [to the Planning Commission meeting July 28] en masse,” Simpson said.

For more information on the upcoming Planning Commission meeting, the Fayette Alliance and how you can get involved, visit fayettealliance.com/soccercomplex.

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