Hardin Co. Planning and Development celebrates 30 years

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Commission was met with opposition and detractors before establishing

By Marty Finley




The commission has had a total of 26 members

Each commission is comprised of 5 members

Four individuals have had the role of commission chairman

Three individuals have served as planning director 


For more info, visit the Hardin County Planning and Development Commission online at www.hcpdc.com, or watch the video, Planning for Growth, at http://www.hcky.org/planning-development.asp




HARDIN COUNTY — The Hardin County Planning and Development Commission reached a milestone last week, commemorating 30 years. But former County Judge-Executive R.R. Thomas remembers the battle involved to establish it. .

The commission was born in response to the rapid growth of the county, he said, and the need to establish an orderly process to guide that development. The commission’s role, he said, is just as vital today as it was in 1979.

“Growth is less detrimental and more beneficial with capable planning," he said

Serving as County Judge-Executive from 1970 to 1990, Thomas was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the commission, though the road was rocky, as he met opposition from residents of the county and his colleagues in Fiscal Court.

“It was a controversial thing,” he said.

Thomas said some property owners opposed the idea of a planning commission because they felt it would impose on rights to their own property, and Fiscal Court members were torn because of the possible political implications of disappointing constituents.

In the early ‘70s, Thomas worked with the cities in the county to form a joint planning commission, but negotiations eventually soured and the project collapsed, leaving Thomas to establish the commission through Fiscal Court.

At that time, he said, his campaign for re-election launched, and he adopted the planning commission as one of his major platforms, refusing to give up on the idea.

Upon re-election, Thomas said he was able to garner support for the commission's formation.

"I think that  gave Fiscal Court the courage to (vote for it)," Thomas said.

Dennis Gordon moved his family from Alabama to accept the position of planning director, serving from 1979 to 1988. Gordon, who now serves as executive director of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission, said the county was primarily split into three camps at the onset of the commission: Ardently supportive, vehemently opposed, or undecided.

Because of the divisive nature of the subject, Gordon said he spent his first few months establishing an active rapport with county officials and citizens, in hopes to sway those who were undecided.

Gordon said it was also integral in those early stages for the commission to learn from previous missteps and form a strategy for success if it wanted to survive.

From there, the commission’s primary functions emerged, which have remained fairly consistent through the years. The commission is responsible for designing and updating a comprehensive plan for its area of jurisdiction, establishing a zoning ordinance, administering subdivision regulations and implementing the Kentucky building code, said Planning Director Chris Hunsinger.

The Fiscal Court adopted a new comprehensive plan in 2008, and a new zoning ordinance is on the table for this year.

Rick Baumgardner, chairman of the Hardin County Planning and Development Commission, said the commission promotes growth, and provides a vehicle to control growth in such a fashion that local services and infrastructure can withstand it. Baumgardner said he has seen the effects of growth in counties without planning commissions, and services often struggle to keep up.

Property values in communities are also protected through the commission, Baumgardner said, as the commission members provide regulations that promote similar use. For instance, the commission does not want a large industrial area to corner in on an established residential area, or vice versa, he said.

He said the commission also works to protect water quality. One project housed within the upcoming zoning ordinance is an overlay zone that will act as a buffer for county water supply. Baumgardner said the commission is also making revisions to assist septic tank systems by providing adequate space for placement and repairs.

In addition, Baumgardner and Hunsinger commended the work of the men who have served over the years, with much of the work being done free of charge. Baumgardner said the state provides a $50 stipend per regular meeting, but Hardin County has opted out of the stipend because of the economic downturn.

And participants past and present argue the results of the commission have proven its worth to the county. Gordon said planning puts the control back into the community’s hands.

“Do you, the community, want to be in charge of your growth,” Gordon said, “or do you want to become a victim of it?”

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.