Lexington planners took the first steps on Thursday in moving toward establishing design standards for new buildings in the city.
Chris King, head of the planning division, outlined for the Urban County Council's planning committee what it would mean for the city to adopt form-based guidelines. The guidelines would regulate such elements as the size and shape of a building, the distance it is set back from the street and the number of windows and doors. The guidelines would not regulate the building's use, King said.
"These form-based codes are basically where you say, 'We really don't care very much what's in there, but we do care what it looks like,'" King said.
The city already has design standards for historic districts, the courthouse area design district and the Newtown Pike extension area.
In setting up a form-based code, the city could include height restrictions, landscape requirements, sign standards and requirements on certain architectural features.
King said the city would need to hire a design professional to develop the form-based code, and public meetings would be held to get feedback from the community.
The goal would be for clear guidelines so developers and the community would know what is expected.
Design standards are called for in the city's Destination 2040 study, the Downtown Master Plan and the 2007 Comprehensive Plan that guides land use within Fayette County.
Without such standards, the city had no control over the size and design of the proposed CentrePointe project.
Lexington does not have a culture of design vision and design leadership, architect Graham Pohl told the committee. "That's what we need," he said. "As we move forward, it's important we assess all of the reasons why things did not work out in more of a happy way for the city with regard" to CentrePointe, he said.
On a motion by Councilman Tom Blues, the committee voted unanimously to ask Vice Mayor Jim Gray to set up a task force in the next 30 days composed of council members, government officials and citizens to "begin the process" of moving toward form-based guidelines and perhaps design regulations as well. The task force would report quarterly to the Planning Committee.
Cheryl Feigel, Chuck Ellinger, Linda Gorton, Julian Beard, Kevin Stinnett, Jay McChord and Blues all voted.
The full council will vote on whether to set up the task force at its June 1 session.
Stinnett asked whether the guidelines would apply to specific areas. Blues said they would probably target the central downtown business district, but he said that was a decision for the task force.