Urban County Council approves Ashland Park historic overlay

kward1@herald-leader.comJanuary 22, 2013 

Lexington's Urban County Council voted 11-1 at a special meeting Tuesday night to designate the Ashland Park neighborhood as a historic district.

"It is about protecting what is so special about Lexington and this community that makes people want to come here," Councilwoman Diane Lawless said.

A host of supporters and a significant contingent in opposition to the H-1 zoning overlay spoke at the hearing, which lasted nearly five hours.

Those in opposition were represented by attorney Steven Vicroy, who told the council that the designation was unnecessary.

"This neighborhood doesn't need help preserving itself or growing itself as a successful community," he said. "... They don't trust their neighbors to do what the neighborhood has been doing for 93 years."

He also said the "restrictions in this overlay zone can be onerous."

But Tony Chamblin, immediate past president of the Ashland Park Neighborhood Association, told the council that the designation was necessary to keep parts of the neighborhood from being replaced by commercial buildings or apartments.

As an example, he held up a picture of a grand Victorian home that once stood at the corner of South Ashland Avenue and East Main Street. A produce market fills the spot now.

"We decided to pursue a proactive course rather than wait until the horse got out of the stall," Chamblin said of the association's support for the overlay.

The Ashland Park neighborhood, which was originally part of Henry Clay's 600-acre farm, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986.

Its streets and lots were laid out by the renowned landscaping firm Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Mass., which was hired in 1908 to design the neighborhood.

The designation by the city as a historic district means property owners will have to go before the Board of Architectural Review before tearing down or significantly changing the outside of a structure. New homes will have to conform to the architectural standards in place.

The planning commission voted 7-4 to approve the historic district Oct. 25. The council was required to vote on the issue within 90 days.

Councilwoman Jennifer Scutchfield cast the lone "no" vote at Tuesday night's meeting.

Mayor Jim Gray and council members Bill Farmer and Kevin Stinnett recused themselves from the vote and were not be present for the deliberations on the H-1 zoning overlay.

Farmer said he has property in the overlay area; Gray and Stinnett both have relatives who live there. Gray said he also had a long-scheduled family commitment that prevented him from chairing the meeting.

Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @heraldleader.

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