Posted October 14th, 2014 in Bardstown, Blog by Rick Hill

The Kentucky Standard’s August 3, 2014 editorial on Bardstown’s sign ordinances and regulations failed to address the underlying problem: the confusing and often illegible document that governs sign regulation in Bardstown, Kentucky.


Simply put, our sign regulation system is broken. This is obvious from a cursory look into the sign ordinances and regulations available on the City of Bardstown and the Joint City County Planning Commission websites. The format of the sign regulation is totally disorganized. Its language is repetitive and vague. Even more embarrassing, the document is rife with poor grammar, incomplete statements and ambiguous terms. What “experts” put this regulation together in the first place and how has it survived in its current form for so many years? Anyone who believes the document provides clear communication and offers a reflection of our community’s standards has obviously not read it. Continue Reading »

Posted October 14th, 2014 in Bardstown, Blog by Rick Hill
Village People or Village Idiots?

Village People or Village Idiots?

You know it’s election season in Nelson County when you hear the chorus of political candidates singing Y-M-C-A. They pretend they represent the village people, but in actuality, they’re more like the village idiots.


Two comments made by candidates in recent debates especially stand out. First, a candidate mentioned that the county needs an indoor swim facility but argued that such a facility should not be part of a YMCA. Second, the same candidate suggested that a YMCA would compete with local fitness centers and argued that this is not something the county should encourage.
These statements clearly indicate that there is a big difference between knowing how to spell YMCA and understanding that a state-of-the-art YMCA could do a lot of good for our area.


We need a far more encompassing plan for community-wide health than a pool in a metal shed. And we’re not going to achieve communal fitness goals in a strip-mall fitness center with a dozen spinning machines. Have candidates even stepped into a state-of-the-art YMCA facility, with its focus on health and nutrition and its family-centered recreation, physical conditioning, strength, and therapeutic activities? One must assume not: If they had more than a passing familiarity with the types of amenities the Y offers, they would have never made their uninformed statements. Continue Reading »

Posted October 26th, 2013 in Bardstown by Rick Hill

zoning 4An editorial in the Kentucky Standard on October 20, 2013, began with an accurate statement—building permits are facts of life. In its editorial, the Standard was responding to a controversy about a ramp to a residential home. Neighbors had constructed the ramp to enable a child with a disability to have independent access to the house, without the required permits.


The Kentucky Standard is an award-winning newspaper and an asset to Bardstown and Nelson County. However, for some unknown reason, the Standard’s editorial board adopted a preachy tone: “What those people failed to realize was that the commission didn’t cause the problem. They’re just doing their job which is to enforce regulations.” The editorial continued: “It’s much easier to attack a faceless agency than to acknowledge that the issue is not with the commission, but rather with the property owner, who failed to follow legal protocol.”

Continue Reading »

Posted October 14th, 2013 in Bardstown by Rick Hill

rampfinal-342x256Last week a zoning code controversy broke out in Bardstown, KY concerning a residential ramp that was constructed by neighbors to allow a physically challenged child access to her home without assistance.  It seems that such ramps require a $250 building permit and since the ramp was within 25 feet of the public sidewalk – an apparent code violation, another $250+/- fee was required to request a variance.  Letters of non-compliance were sent out by the city with various forms of threats in an attempt to gain compliance and to collect the $500+ in fees.  Regional and local media reported the story and soon international social media caught wind, resulting in an ugly image of greedy and a less than compassionate city government. Continue Reading »

Posted September 13th, 2013 in Bardstown by Rick Hill


I recently hosted eight young couples who were visiting Bardstown from various places around the country.  They were employed in the financial, fashion, medical, legal, internet, and retail industries.  The average household income of the group was significant but not unlike many similar gatherings that occur throughout the town on a regular basis.


Over dinner the conversation turned to the upcoming bourbon festival, held annually in Bardstown each September attracting upwards of 50,000 people.   Interest was expressed in returning to Bardstown with friends, co-workers, and clients during the Bourbon Festival in subsequent years.  But, the prevailing question was: “where would we stay?” This was particularly relevant since this group had experienced their own problems finding acceptable accommodations in town.  Some settled for the last couple of rooms in a quality-for-the-money 3 star national chain, one roughed it in a B & B, and others ended-up on air mattresses on floors and flopping on the living room sofa rather than subjecting themselves to the remaining alternatives of “outdated, musty, worn-out, and transient shelters.” Continue Reading »

Posted September 7th, 2013 in Bardstown by Rick Hill

bikes (1)A small town’s downtown, especially one that relies on tourism and one that has been designated as a national historic district, like Bardstown can become static and lose its appeal.  Strict controls on storefront improvements can result in an adverse impact that results in a stagnated, aging, and dated marketplace.  Vital retail streets require change, innovation and the new to remain appealing to contemporary consumers.


One small suggestion:  Add a bike sharing and rental system in downtown Bardstown similar to the ones springing up across the U.S.  Such bike sharing programs consist of clusters of rental stations spread throughout a community.  A cluster may have 20 color fat tire bikes with baskets and GPS guidance systems.  They are used by locals for recreation, a quick ride to a local business, students traveling between home and schools, and visitors who want to explore town past the town’s short main street.  Bardstown’s flat and  grid pattern of streets, and close proximity of homes, schools, civic institutions, restaurants, and businesses create an ideal environment for such a program. Continue Reading »

Posted September 2nd, 2013 in Bardstown by Rick Hill

TransomThis morning on my daily walk through Bardstown’s downtown, in a two block area I counted 20 storefronts with canvas awnings.  Disturbingly, the awnings of 14 storefronts hid the original transoms above the show windows.  The transoms were covered with a variety of materials including aluminum siding, corrugated metal, and plywood.  Without the concealing awnings this portion of the storefronts, the ones on the showcase street in the most beautiful small town in America, would look like a commercial strip on the wrong end of town, in a depressed major urban city.


I’m not sure how this condition came about.  But, the awnings do their job in hiding one of the most beautiful attributes of the town’s most significant block including leaded-glass transoms and ornate copper cornices.  Obviously, at one point, the transoms were a major source of mercantile pride.  It is now sad to see the concealment of an attribute that would support the “most beautiful” designation in a national landmark district if the canvas veils were removed and the transoms were restored to their natural beauty.  Stewardship of a national treasure brings much responsibility and a commitment.  Hiding an attribute under a fake facade is something else.