Tuesday, July 31, 2001

'Smart growth' elicits opinions

Gov. Patton's task force holds forum at NKU

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — The task force Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton formed to study “smart growth” and “urban sprawl” apparently will have to do more than just analyze the issues.

        It will have to define them as well.

        Based on the comments at a Monday night community forum the task force held at Northern Kentucky University, the concepts of smart growth and urban sprawl have many definitions.

        To Jacquelene Mylor, a historic preservationist from Warsaw in fast-growing Gallatin County, smart growth is utilizing and saving properties through redevelopment and restoration.

        Doing so “not only preserves our heritage and background” but revitalizes historic business districts and downtowns in small towns, she said.

        To home builder Jeff Erpenbeck, urban sprawl is a “hysteria being fanned by the anti-growth groups and environmental extremists who claim that we are growing too fast.”

        Mr. Erpenbeck, president of the Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky, cited statistics from the Kentucky Data Center at the University of Louisville and the Census Bureau indicating

        that while the number of households in the state grew by 244,000 housing units during the 1990s, only 7 percent of Kentucky's land is developed.

        “Kentucky is not growing too fast,” he said.

        To the members of the Kunkel family in rural Boone County, smart growth is a veiled attempt by the government to control what property owners can do with their land.

        “Smart growth is most decidedly not smart growth,” said Bernie Kunkel of Walton, who, along with his brothers Larry and Bill, addressed the three members of the task force who attended the forum.

        The Kunkels point to plans under way in Lexington and being pondered in Boone County where tax dollars are used to purchase farmland so that it remains undeveloped.

        “I say, leave us alone, big state government ... and let us do what we want with the property we own,” Bernie Kunkel said.

        The 35-member task force has a long way to go before the public understands how Mr. Patton intends to pursue his charge of smarter growth and limiting urban sprawl.

        In Northern Kentucky, one of the fastest-growing regions of the state for 30 years, communities and residents have been crying out for better planning as roads become more congested, schools grow more crowded and development gobbles up what once was rural farmland.

        In announcing the task force in May, Mr. Patton pointed to an analysis by USA Today that showed Northern Kentucky ranked 11th among the areas with the greatest sprawl in the nation. Louisville was ninth; Lexington 10th.

        The governor also said that according to the Kentucky Long Term Policy Research Center, between 1982 and 1997 the state grew 27 percent faster than the rest of the nation, resulting in the loss of 46 acres a day to development.

        Educating the public about growth issues is part of what the task force intends to achieve, said Harry Carver, the Patton administration's point man on growth issues.

        It will put together a report this year and ultimately make recommendations to Mr. Patton and the Kentucky General Assembly on legislation that could, among other things, require local governments to adopt comprehensive development plans for their communities.

        In more than 25 counties in Kentucky there are no zoning laws or regulations. The legislation could also mandate more regional planning in urban and suburban areas, such as Northern Kentucky.

        The legislation is likely to be introduced for consideration in the legislature's 2002 session, which begins in January, said Rep. Jon Draud, R-Crestview Hills, a task force member.

        “Nobody has made up their minds about any of this yet,” Mr. Draud told the 60 or so people who attended Monday's meeting.

        “That's why we're here,” he said.


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