KRC's testimony Before the Jefferson County Planning Commission

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KRC's testimony Before the Jefferson County Planning Commission  Posted: June 1, 2002
Last evening, the Jefferson County Planning Commission took testimony concerning proposed revisions to the zoning regulations to conform them to the new comprehensive plan. KRC presented this testimony. Regrettably, due to negative reaction received from some landowners within a proposed expanded special district to protect the Floyd's Fork corridor, those proposed regulations have been withdrawn by the commission. The adoption process for these regulations has been something short of a profile in courage by local elected and appointed officials. KRC's testimony is presented for your information.


Members of the Planning Commission, staff, my name is Tom FitzGerald and I am Director of the Kentucky Resources Council, Inc., a non-profit environmental advocacy organization providing legal assistance without charge to individuals and communities in the Commonwealth regarding environmental issues. I have been a resident of the City of Louisville and of Jefferson County for 18 years.

I am a member of the committee that was charged by the Planning Commission to develop for public review and comment, proposed regulations implementing the Cornerstone 2020 Comprehensive Plan Guidelines and Plan Elements that have been adopted by each legislative body with planning and zoning power in this community. These regulations are part of the product of what has been an exhaustive, thoughtful, occasionally contentious process of consensus building.

It has been my privilege to serve, along with a dozen or so other volunteers, in attempting to develop a document that is true to the vision, goals, objectives and principles of the new comprehensive plan. While this document is not perfect, and in many areas is not as strong a document in protecting the land and water resources that are the building block of a healthy community and a healthy economy as I would like to see, the plan is an improvement over the 1979 plan in attempting to accommodate the interest of each landowner in their use and enjoyment of land, with the corresponding interests of would-be commercial, residential, institutional and industrial neighbors.

I am not here representing the committee, however, since each member is free to express his or her own view. I have been for thirty years an advocate who has represented landowners in matters relating to the protection of the use, enjoyment, value and integrity of their homes and lands. Since 1980, I have been involved as counsel in representing low to moderate-income landowners in air, waste, water and mining cases. I have been involved in siting issues related to solid waste landfills, hazardous and medical waste incinerators, junkyards, slaughterhouses, strip and underground coal and non-coal mines, dredging operations, shopping malls, cell towers, railroad switching yards; in short, a full range of issues in counties with and without zoning, in which the proposed use of land or water resources by one entity potentially affects others. In this county, I have represented neighbors and neighborhood groups in opposing hazardous waste burning at Kosmos Cement, a hazardous waste incinerator in Kosmosdale, the night-of-the-living-mall in Okolona, the Louisville Barrel factory in Portland, the BT Energy waste storage site on Dixie Highway, and most recently the Dawson Baker slaughtering operation in Irish Hill. My perspective gives me a somewhat jaundiced view of growth and development issues. No one ever calls me because they are having a good day. They call because they are in crisis, and there is no other place to turn - because they perceive that their homes, their family, their health, their community is threatened. In all too many cases, regrettably, the very tool that could have prevented these crises from occurring, and which could have moderated the impacts of changes in other land uses or intensity of uses on their lands, were available to local governments, but were not used because residents of the county or city had opposed adoption of planning and zoning.

Right up until the day when the junkyard moves next door, it is probably accurate that, given the choice, most people would prefer less restriction on their land uses. But once threatened, they certainly want more restrictions on other people's land uses to protect their own.

And therein lies the rub - it is always easier to ignore someone else's troubles, and to rail about government this and government that, but bear in mind that today's advocate for less regulation, today's opponent of land use planning and zoning, today's "one world government" conspiracy theorist, today's red-baiter, is tomorrow's victim, asking too late that something be done to protect their rights and their interests.

At the foundation, the health of our democratic system and the future social, political and economic well-being of our commonwealth and its communities rests on the quality of the relationships among neighbors relative to their uses of land, air and water resources, between businesses and the communities that host them, between elected and appointed officials and the electorate, between our species and the natural world we inhabit, and between ourselves and those for whom we shepherd the future.

These regulations, including the Floyd's Fork Special District, are reasonable, they strike a balance between growth and protection of the quality of life, between the interest of a landowner in maximizing their use of land and the rights of those downhill, downstream, and downwind to be free of harm from unwise use of land. The existing Floyd's Fork District has not and these regulations will not deny anyone reasonable use of their land consistent with the fragile soils, steep slopes, floodplains and infrastructure limitations of that area.

To the commenters here tonight, I say this - read the regulations, and read the planning goals and plan elements they seek to implement. If you have a better way of meeting the goals, which have already been adopted by the legislative bodies, of accommodating growth while protecting neighbors and the land and water resources, we are eager to review them.

I would be remiss if I didn't close by thanking the staff for their dedication, for their patience, and for their perseverance. They have, for very short pay, attempted to carry forward this community's vision for future land use in the face of little real political leadership, and scurrilous personal attacks that have no place in public policy debates concerning the relative rights and responsibilities of neighbors to neighbors and to their community.

I urge you to stay the course and to adopt the regulations as proposed.


By Kentucky Resources Council on 06/01/2002 5:32 PM
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