What are the next steps for ‘smart growth’ in Danville-Boyle County?

Published 6:42 pm Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Guest columnists

How many times have we, the citizens of Boyle County, thanked our lucky stars for this little gem of a place to live? We hear visitors say it often. We hear it from folks who have moved here to live. And we hear it from people who are paid to study communities with an eye toward the future.

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All of the consultants who have evaluated Danville and Boyle County in the past ten years have emphasized the desirability of our community.  They note the beauty of the countryside; the attractiveness of the downtown; the history we have preserved; the availability of health, educational, and cultural opportunities; and the involvement of citizens in our government.

Many of the presenters who came to Danville from across the state for a conference about “smart growth” called “Finding a Balance in Boyle County” on Nov. 1 also mentioned these attributes and suggested ways to build on our successes as we continue to grow going forward.

There’s often disagreement between those who support aggressive development and those who want to “keep things the same.” The term “smart growth” takes a middle ground, encompassing planned growth that builds on the history and agriculture that are so much a part of Boyle County, while encouraging new business and industry to broaden our tax base and attract new residents. 

The 100 or more business owners, elected officials, Planning and Zoning commissioners and others who came to the conference learned much about what smart growth really means as the presenters told success stories from communities that have used tenets of smart growth in their planning. 

For those readers who missed the conference, here’s the lowdown on some smart growth principles:

  • Infill to prevent sprawl: Develop properties within the existing perimeters of our cities and towns as much as possible rather than “leap frogging” away from city centers.
  • Preserve agriculture: Boyle County, like the rest of the country, is losing irreplaceable farmland at an alarming rate.
  • Make room for greenspace: Parks, open meadows and forests are vital ingredients in making our communities attractive, healthy places.
  • Build affordable, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods: Plan neighborhoods in all price ranges that are pedestrian friendly, with common areas that include places to play, eat and shop.
  • Make downtown a place people want to visit: A pedestrian-friendly, visually attractive downtown with a mix of businesses, restaurants and arts opportunities draws people to the city center.

Let’s consider three of these principles and how we as citizens might support them.

Preserving our agriculture: In addition to adding millions of dollars to the local economy each year, agriculture preserves our rural character and scenic beauty. And let’s not forget that farmers are the ones who feed us.

Much of Boyle County’s farmland is designated prime, which means it’s the best for growing crops and grazing livestock. Yet the narrow profit margins and lack of control over prices, weather, tariffs and other factors make farming increasingly difficult. What can we as a community do to make it possible for folks to keep farming, since we all have a stake in preserving farmland?

Purchase of Development Rights has been the answer for many places across the country. PDR programs use public funds to pay for “development rights” from landowners who want to participate, so the land can be kept as farms. Such programs have been successful in Scott and Fayette counties, and they merit a look from our elected officials.

Preserving/creating green space: How do we create more open spaces throughout the county — places like Millennium Park in Danville and the Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge in Forkland? We need to work with our local elected officials and agencies to fully maximize the benefits of our existing public lands and also support landowners who want to donate their land for green space.

Make downtown Danville the best it can be: With Centre College nearby and Ephraim McDowell Medical Center as part of it, our downtown has so much going for it – the beautiful buildings, the restaurants and businesses already there – and many ways to build on that were discussed at the conference.  

As has been in the news recently, safety issues are a primary concern. We must make our downtown safe for pedestrians. Our city officials are working with the state Department of Transportation to solve traffic problems that make crossing Main Street unsafe for foot traffic.

Public/private incentives were an instrumental part of Owensboro’s riverfront and downtown development, conference participants were told, and such partnerships seem like an effective way to encourage more businesses and restaurants.

As part of the master plan that is now being conducted by Bravura, there will be opportunities for citizens to help shape Danville’s downtown at public meetings. We urge everyone to be part of this effort by letting the planners know what you want more (and less) of in our city center.

So many groups are working to keep Danville and Boyle County unique and vibrant into the future. Together, we can ensure the smart growth of this special place. 


Sallie Bright and Sarah Vahlkamp are members of Smart Growth Boyle.