The Lexington Council delayed action again Thursday on a controversial proposal to swap a number of roads with the state after numerous Cooper Drive residents said they don’t want that road to be state-controlled.
The controversial resolution won’t get a first reading until Nov. 16 and likely won’t get a final vote until December. The city began debating the road swap in a committee meeting in August and continued debate during several meetings in September. Yet, neighbors said they were only recently aware that Cooper was involved in the swap.
Delaying the vote will give neighbors opposed to the transfer more time to study the issue and possibly time to convince the University of Kentucky to give Alumni Drive, which UK owns and is parallel to Cooper, to the state instead of Cooper Drive.
The proposed road swap would give the state Cooper Drive between Tates Creek Road and South Limestone, Citation Boulevard between Leestown Road and Newtown Pike and Virginia Avenue from South Limestone to South Broadway. In return, the city would get the Jefferson Street bridge, which it wants to tear down to make room for a planned expansion of the Lexington convention center and a proposed 10-acre Town Branch Park. The city would also get portions of South Upper, Tates Creek, Euclid, Forbes Road, West High and West Maxwell and Parkers Mill Road.
A vote on the resolution has been delayed before because of concerns raised by the Main Street Baptist Church about the Jefferson Street bridge. Main Street Baptist is concerned that the new park and the planned expansion of the convention center will destroy a parking lot adjacent to Rupp Arena that its congregation has used for decades for parking. The city has worked with Main Street Baptist to try to reconfigure parking in that area so the church can continue to use Rupp Arena parking during the construction of the convention center, which is set to begin in 2018.
Daryl Love, a member of the Main Street Baptist Church, told the council Thursday night the church still needs more parking spaces — at least 100 spaces. The reconfiguration proposed by the city only gave the church 92 parking spaces.
Members of Montclair Neighborhood off of Cooper Drive urged the council to reconsider transferring Cooper to the state.
Jerry Price of the Montclair Neighborhood urged the council to consider transferring other roads to the state.
“Every once in a while, you’ve got to act like you have some sense,” Price said. “This is a bad, bad idea.”
Katherine Yunker said she felt that there was no consultation with the neighborhood. Why doesn’t UK want to give the state Alumni Drive?
“If the state university won’t turn over its street to the state, why?” Yunker said. “What does that tell us? Why would a neighborhood be okay with it?”
Some became visibly angry during the meeting and traded jabs with Councilman Jake Gibbs, who represents the Cooper Drive area. Gibbs said he regretted that he did not keep the neighborhood better informed but said there was no attempt to hide or push the road swap through. It’s been delayed several times, Gibbs said. Gibbs said he did not believe that transferring the ownership of the road to the state will change the character of the street.
Other neighbors told the council traffic is already a headache in the area. They are worried the state will widen the road or cut down trees. Some said they feared their property values will plummet if it becomes a state road.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials have said they wanted Cooper Drive to maintain their state highway road system.
Kelly Baker, the chief district engineer for the area that includes Fayette County, said in a Nov. 7 letter to the city the state has no plans to widen the road or make any changes to it. The state will only maintain the road, he said.
“There is no project of any kind identified for Cooper Drive and we have absolutely no interest in developing one,” Baker wrote.
Baker also noted that roads have to be added to the local state road plan. The next time Cooper could even be considered for a major project is 2040, Baker said. Any request to widen Cooper Drive would have to come from the city, city officials said.
Environmental Quality and Public Works Commissioner Dowell Hoskins Squire said they have spoken to UK and it does not appear the university wants to give Alumni to the state. UK just spent millions re-doing Alumni Drive.