Zoning, Economic Development, and Protecting Neighborhoods

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If you have driven up and down Buckner or Pecan recently, you have most likely noticed signs that say "Keep Pecan R1". A developer is interested in building a senior care facility on an area of land between Pecan Drive and I-24. In order to do so, the land will need to be rezoned from R1, which is zoned for single family residential, to R4, which allows for higher density residential facilities. 

The neighborhood surrounding Pecan is rightly concerned about the issues related to increased development. The Mayor hosted a public meeting during which many of the same issues were raised that I heard knocking on doors during the campaign. This neighborhood feels neglected and forgotten and has real problems with flooding, traffic, and noise that need to be addressed. 

At the same time, economic development and good jobs are an ongoing concern for the entire city. This facility will bring well-paying health care jobs to our community at a time when we are facing the closing of AmerisourceBergen and other layoffs. 

I have been approached by so many community members with concerns about this development and always they say the same thing.

"I'm sure you've already made up your mind."

There seems to be a very common perception that politicians have opinions set in stone and only speak (and never listen) to defend these opinions. 

Well, let me clear up that misperception. 

I have not made up my mind. I do not know what I will do because I do not think there is an easy answer. I do a disservice to the complexity of the concerns of this neighborhood, the developer, and our community as a whole when I pretend otherwise. 

I understand the importance of economic development and securing jobs for this community. That was also a concern I heard over and over again while knocking on doors all last summer and fall. However, I also believe that there are organizations in this town whose sole job it is to increase economic development and I think they are doing a very good job.

I do not believe that is my sole purpose as an elected official. When I took my oath, I swore to faithfully execute, to the best of my ability, the office of Commissioner and I intend to do that. 

Now, representing Paducah's citizens isn't simple either because (surprise!) they don't all feel the same way. I don't see myself as a pollster either - merely representing the views of the majority. I desperately want to protect the best interests of a neighborhood that has too often felt forgotten - even if those concerns aren't shared or understood by a majority. However, I can't stop hearing the words of one home owner at our last meeting who said, "I worry if we say no to this development that we might be worse off with the next one that comes along."

We postponed the vote because the Commission is trying to address those concerns as well as the complex needs of our community as a whole. I hope we can make that happen.

In the meantime, I wanted everyone to know that we are human beings listening and learning and trying to do the right thing. I pledged during my campaign to be transparent and I intend to keep that pledge. I wanted to acknowledge that - for me - there are no easy answers in this situation, only hard choices.

If you have thoughts on the proposed rezoning, please do not hesitate to share them with me either in the comments or via email at sholland@paducahky.gov

Sarah Holland