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Agreement seems near on rental rules

At a work session Tuesday, Lexington's Urban County Council approved four changes to zoning ordinances to help regulate rental houses around the University of Kentucky.

Three more proposed changes — the most controversial — remain under discussion between landlords and permanent residents. Attorneys for both sides met with law commissioner Logan Askew in intense discussions for several hours before the work session.

Askew told council members the attorneys wanted to continue working during the next several days to see whether they could find common ground.

"Some of us have been fighting this for 20 years," said Janet Cowen, who lives in Columbia Heights. "This is one of the first times we think we can come to an agreement — what's best for the permanent residents and for the landlords."

Cowen's husband, Ted, a lawyer, took part in the talks.

The four approved changes redefined what is a boarding house, congregate living facility, and fraternity and sorority house; and eliminate the provision that a family could keep boarders in a neighbor of single family or two-family homes.

The three other proposed changes refine the terms family and functional family for housing purposes. A family would be any number of people related by blood, marriage, adoption or other authorized custodial relationship or four or fewer unrelated people.

A functional family would be five or more unrelated people living together in a single housekeeping unit. The proposed amendments would require that a functional family get a conditional use permit from the city's Board of Adjustment to live together.

These changes had lawyers huddling, said Richard Murphy, attorney for the Greater Lexington Apartment Association.

The council's Planning Committee, which initiated the seven zoning amendments, will hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday to consider changes attorneys come up with. These would go to the council for a vote at its work session later that day. If approved, the changes will be on the agenda for the regular council meeting on March 25.

At that time, council members will vote whether to send the changes to the Planning Commission for possible tweaking and a public hearing.

The changes are intended to crack down on landlords who convert small, World War II-era houses into dorm-style rental units for students. But the changes would affect rental property citywide.

Landlord Craig Hardin said he thought the attorneys were representing everybody "pretty well." The two sides have found "some things we can agree on," he said.

Councilwoman Linda Gorton said coming up with a clear, concise definition of family and functional family "is a very complicated issue." Gorton said she was encouraged Askew and the attorneys would find common ground.

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