Split fiscal court approves changes to Comprehensive Plan

Published 1:24 pm Thursday, December 14, 2023

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Many in attendance at a crowded Clark County Fiscal Court meeting on Wednesday morning came to see if the version of the Clark County-Winchester Comprehensive Plan for 2018-2038 with amended goals and objectives – as written by members of the court – would pass.

By a narrow vote, it did.

After hearing both support and criticism from the general public and multiple points of view from Fiscal Court members, the revised version of the Clark County-Winchester Comprehensive Plan for 2018-2038 with amended goals and objectives passed 4-3.

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Magistrates Chris Davis, Ernest Pasley, Mark Miller and Dan Konstantopoulos voted in favor of the amended goals and objectives, while Magistrates Robert Blanton and Steve Craycraft and Clark County Judge-Executive Les Yates voted against it.

As previously reported by the Sun, the purpose of the Clark County-Winchester Comprehensive Plan is to clarify a broad vision and establish guiding principles and policies for future growth and community development.

The plan has previously engaged public input to focus on the community’s needs and was approved by the county planning commission. Several members of the court voiced opposition to language found in the plan.

At Wednesday’s meeting, several members of the public disfavored and spoke of concerns regarding changes to the plan.

Some, including Teresa Bridges, emphasized the need and relevance of specific issues such as code enforcement.

Perhaps most notably, Will Mayer, the executive director of the Clark Coalition, an organization dedicated to smart planning in the area, spoke at length about the changes.

“The [Comprehensive] Plan does not focus on the needs and desires of just one property owner, business or neighborhood. Comprehensive plans are intended to be broad in nature and serve the larger community,” Mayer said. “These [proposed] changes do not conform to the vision of the public in Winchester [and] Clark County.”

Mayer also stated that the proposed changes were not supported by evidence gained when speaking with other local officials and raised questions about specific actions, such as eliminating one objective that emphasizes evaluating the benefits and feasibility or merging city and county government.

“I understand that some elected officials might not like the idea of merging city and county government,” Mayer said. “That’s not what this objective says. It says evaluates the benefits and feasibility.”

Yet others spoke in favor of the changes.

Among them was Clark County resident Tim Janes.

“I read the revisions. I think they’re very reasonable and needed, and I encourage and urge the board in planning to pass those revisions,” Janes said. “The revisions will make the goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan update less anti-growth. There are many different opinions on growth and development in our county. Leaders who are elected…[have] the full authority to approve the Comprehensive Plan..goals and objectives.”

Later, as the fiscal court began discussing action, Blanton motioned to approve the initial Comprehensive Plan goals and objectives as submitted to the fiscal court before any changes.

While acknowledging that he had questions about some objectives of the submitted plan, Craycraft noted that he didn’t feel fully comfortable with the amended version.

“I’m just not ready to throw the baby out with the bath water”, he said.

Magistrates Dan Konstantopoulos and Mark Miller referred to the language of the objectives and felt they needed to be altered for clarity.

Urban sprawl, or the idea of expanding the geographical extent of cities and towns, was a particular area of question and concern for many on Wednesday.

Chris Davis, speaking afterward, stated that while being mindful of the issues associated with them is necessary, the fiscal court had not changed the map.

“We take into account preservation of farmland and preservation of downtown, also with the need of accommodating the need for housing and growth,” Davis said. “I think people need to understand we’re not throwing out the map or revising the map. We’re not throwing out the whole Comprehensive Plan. There was a lot of time put into the Comprehensive Plan both by the committee that was appointed and also by the fiscal court. We take our responsibilities very seriously, but we take very seriously what is said by those goals and objectives.”

Ultimately, Davis was pleased with the outcome.

“I thought that it was a very good conversation. Everybody had an opportunity to speak, including the public,” Davis said. “The magistrates, I think, took a very deliberate and sincere look at the plan and…we came to some really good compromises.”

With the Winchester City Commission expected to look at the Comprehensive Plan themselves at a future date, the issue remains far from settled.