Concern rises over proposed zoning change

A proposed text amendment to allow nursing homes and similar health-related facilities on property zoned for agriculture has concerned several residents, but neither city nor county government has acted on the issue yet.

Earlier this month, the Winchester-Clark County Planning Commission voted 4-3 to approve a proposed amendment which would allow such facilities as a special use for property zoned A-1 in Clark County.

Planning Director Robert Jeffries said existing special uses for A-1 include family farm homesteading and transfer of development rights.

Special use requests must be approved by the planning board, which considers a number of factors, he said.

“Everything’s on a case-by-case basis,” he said, and everything is taken into consideration including public response and if it is compatible with neighboring property. If the board decides the project is not complaint, the process ends. 

The amendment, he said, would establish a process for approving such projects, where none currently exists. 

“It’s a very stringent process focusing on how it will affect neighboring property,” Jeffries said. “There are a few potential applicants that were at the meeting.”

Jeffries said it would not be a permitted use, which would allow such businesses to be built without notice or legislative approval, other than reviewing the site plan.

Both the Winchester Board of Commissioners and the Clark County Fiscal Court must approve the amendment to the joint zoning ordinance, but neither body had the item on the agenda for this week’s meetings. Both Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner and Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham said they thought the issue needed more discussion by the planning commission.

Ann Barker, a resident of Mount Sterling Road, spoke at both meetings against the proposed amendment.

“This is something that’s affecting the entire county,” she said. “This is something that needs to be looked at (more). This should not come under A-1. It should come under a zone change.”

Barker said three locations were discussed during the planning meeting earlier this month, including the former Trapp Elementary, which will become a shelter for female veterans, a location on U.S. 60 and property on Railroad Lane.

“These are totally independent and different from each other,” she said. 

Clark County resident Mike Irwin told the fiscal court he disagreed as well.

“Any zoning change should be done on an individual basis,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to come in and build a nursing home… next to me without it going to planning and zoning.”

Burtner said the U.S. 60 matter was denied.

“I do think they’ll probably take (the amendment) up again,” Burtner said of the planning commission.