One of the highlights of living in Lexington is its commitment to intentional urban life. Attractive parks, cozy neighborhoods and thoughtfully planned businesses make life “inside the circle” a wonderful mix of work and play, industry and family.
Maintaining this intentionality is particularly critical for issues of development, as the 2007 Planning Commission noted that “vacant land within the Urban Service Area is at the lowest level in history.” Therefore, utilization of the available land merits close attention.
One such case will be considered April 29 by the Board of Adjustment. Republic Services wishes to construct an unwanted and unnecessary garbage transfer station at 203/205 Lisle Industrial Avenue, an area ripe for more beneficial development.
Republic claims the site is appropriately zoned, that other locations lack sufficient acreage, and that it is “a comparable use to nearby existing industry.”
Lisle Industrial Avenue was zoned for heavy industry when it was on the outskirts of town. However, this area is now enclosed by residential and commercial ventures. The relocation of the Bluegrass Stockyards provides an opportunity to expand the success of the nearby Distillery District in the Manchester Corridor.
Its Middle Fork restaurant was recently named one of the top 100 restaurants in the country. Will their patrons enjoy the combination of trash effluvium and cleaning chemicals as they relax on the patio?
This is not merely a Meadowthorpe neighborhood issue; it concerns northwest Lexington and, indeed, the city as a whole. West New Circle Road is being widened; suburbs to the west are mushrooming; a new retail center near Citation Boulevard is in the works; and Town Branch Trail is moving steadily eastward, only a long stone’s throw from Republic’s proposed facility.
Republic maintains the facility will not negatively affect existing residential and commercial properties. However, their application is problematic on several levels.
First, the facility will inevitably impact surrounding areas. Neighborhoods adjoining a transfer station in Brooklyn, N.Y., report high levels of diesel fumes, noise pollution from idling trucks, garbage odors and hazardous chemicals from “deodorizing” sprays. They document violations of industry guidelines (such as leaving the facility door open throughout the day and trucks idling for extended periods of time).
The textbook, Solid Waste Engineering, states: “There is little question that siting a landfill near residential areas will reduce property values” with the effect “often exceeding a three-mile radius.”
Republic maintains that this is a transfer station, not a landfill, but the similarities outweigh the differences. Moreover, Republic’s desire to operate its own transfer station is unashamedly financial: “The more of the operation that we own and control,” stated municipal relationship director Gregory Butler, “the more money that we make.”
Clearly, their monetary gain comes at the expense of the surrounding neighborhoods. It would also compete directly with the Bluegrass Regional Transfer Station — located less than one mile away on Old Frankfort Pike — which satisfactorily serves the city and the region.
Second, this facility is not compatible with the city’s position on urban infill and development. Calling Meadowthorpe “an important spoke of Lexington’s circulation scheme,” Lexington’s 2009 Non-Residential Infill and Redevelopment Study recommended a mixed-use development model that promotes pedestrian access.
With its reliance upon heavy trucking, Republic estimates daily traffic at a minimum of 157 vehicles, with growth probable as service expansion is already being discussed. This facility is incompatible with the residential, retail and recreational needs of a blooming region of our city.
To squander valuable land inside New Circle for a business that provides its neighbors neither commerce nor beauty — only nuisance and injury — is absurd. Approving Republic’s proposal would be an abuse of both property and people.
Maria Kenney, an adjunct professor at Asbury College, lives in the Meadowthorpe neighborhood.