Fiscal Court and City Commission discuss Comprehensive Plan

Published 11:15 am Tuesday, July 9, 2024

CORRECTION: In the print version, Clark County Judge-Executive Les Yates was incorrectly referred to as a Magistrate. The Sun apologizes for the error. 

The Clark County-Winchester Comprehensive Plan, designed for 2018-2038, has frequently been a subject of government and public interest. 

The conversation topic arose at the latest Clark County Fiscal Court and Winchester City Commission meetings. 

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During the comments section of their meeting on June 27, Magistrate Dan Konstantopoulos – after mentioning that a letter had been received from the Planning Commission – acknowledged the need to draft a response letter to be sent on behalf of the Fiscal Court. 

While initially motioning for the proposed letter to be sent to the Commission on behalf of the court, this motion was not approved. Magistrate Robert Blanton stated he preferred to discuss the matter at a different meeting.

Clark County Judge-Executive Les Yates spoke, stating that – after a meeting with Winchester-Clark County Planning Commission legal counsel Robert Gullette, Jr. – the Planning Commission was willing to approve multiple “redline comments,” referring to sections of the document’s goals and objectives that had been revised or commented on. 

However, Yates said the Planning Commission had questions about a few items. 

Specifically, as currently stated, Objective 2F reads: “Protect and preserve farmland, natural areas, and scenic viewsheds in Clark County from overdevelopment and uses, such as solar fields, rock quarries, landfills, and dumps that degrade the land and negatively impact the unique character and identity of Winchester and the [sic] Clark County.” 

Previously, the term “solid waste facilities” had been included. 

Yates also mentioned a discussion presented at the Planning Commission meeting regarding Objective 7F. 

The objective states: “Evaluate the benefits and feasibility of merging city-county services, ways to increase transparency in government spending and budgeting, and opportunities to increase public participation.” 

Magistrate Steve Craycraft mentioned a discussion being presented at a prior Planning Commission meeting with regard to Objective 2C: “Concentrate industrial, commercial, and resident development in appropriate areas near existing development when economically feasible.” 

Specifically, “near” had previously been “adjacent to.” 

In response to the above-mentioned discussion, Mayor JoEllen Reed and the City Commission discussed the Comprehensive Plan during their meeting on Tuesday, July 2. 

She mentioned that, on September 5, 2023, a public hearing was held to review proposed updates to the Winchester-Clark County Comprehensive Plan “containing a statement of goals and objectives to be adopted by the local legislative body and the Fiscal Court.” 

Afterward, in early November, Mayor Reed stated that she and Judge Yates received copies of the goals and objectives sent by Robert Jeffries, Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Winchester. 

According to Mayor Reed, the Clark County Fiscal Court met on November 30 and initially approved a resolution 6-1 to adopt the goals and objectives. 

However, a later motion at the same meeting passed 5-2 to table the motion to a following meeting. 

While the City Commission took no official action at its meeting on December 12, Mayor Reed asserts that the Fiscal Court, at its meeting on December 13, “approved the goals and objectives as amended by provisions by the [Fiscal] Court,” which included certain redline items, by a 4-3 vote. 

On March 19, Mayor Reed brought a discussion before the City Commission to discuss the goals and objectives. 

“The two items that we discussed that night were 2F…[and] we also looked at item 7D…the city felt that that was to be merging services, not government at this time.”, she said. 

The City Commission agreed to approve changes to Objectives 2F and 7D, with City Commissioner Shannon Cox preferring to keep the term “solid waste facilities” for 2F and the vote unanimous for 7D. 

On June 7, agreeing with Judge Yates’s comments in the Fiscal Court meeting, Mayor Reed acknowledged receiving a letter from Gullett stating that one of two actions needed to be taken: approve the goals and objectives as submitted or hold a special hearing with the Clark County Fiscal Court allowing the two bodies to publicly debate their respective positions. 

Mayor Reed responded that the City Commission would not hold a debate. 

During a meeting of 10 individuals on June 27, which included several staff members from the City and planning Commission and both Judge Yates and Clark County Deputy Judge-Executive Jim Tipton, the City and County agreed on Objective 2F but not on Objective 7D. 

“We all left the room, all ten of us, saying that we would accept the redline version except for that change,” Mayor Reed noted, with the City Commission continuing to advocate for merging services. 

Later that night, the previously mentioned Clark County Fiscal Court meeting occurred. 

“We’re waiting to see what the letter actually says,” said Mayor Reed. “I don’t believe there’s going to be much more movement on any of this.” 

Mayor Reed added that she was not a fan of the Fiscal Court and City Commission’s divergent goals, believing they would be detrimental to the community. 

“We need to agree somewhere,” she said. 

Mayor Reed desired for a motion to be approved for “The Comprehensive Plan Review Committee recommendation forwarded to the Fiscal Court and City Commission by the Planning Commission, which the Fiscal Court has redefined, was redlined by the Fiscal Court, was the subject of a joint discussion of [June 27]…[with] appreciation for and respect for the efforts the Committee deserves, but at the same time seeking to achieve consensus between the two elected bodies. It was determined that all of the changes made by the Fiscal Court would be accepted, and only one by the City Commission would be suggested.” 

A motion was approved unanimously to approve changes made by the Fiscal Court, with the exception being that the Commission is in favor of merging services rather than the government. 

“It’s a guide. We can use it as a guide. We know things are not set in stone,” Mayor Reed said. “We have to bring a resolution to it…again, like I said, I don’t want to see divergent goals. I don’t want to see two planning commissions. I think that’s detrimental and harmful to our city.” 

Jeffries responded when asked what would occur if the City Commission and Fiscal Court did not approve the goals and objectives. 

“That’s a gray area…right now, the Planning Commission is in a really dangerous spot by not having a unified Comprehensive Plan,” he said. “We’re getting applications for zoning map amendments. We’re getting different applications for development plans. The zoning map amendments especially are going to be tough for us to approve and tough for us to entertain without an updated [and] unified comprehensive plan.” 

The next Clark County Fiscal Court meeting, at which the topic will likely be discussed once more, is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 10.