Fayette County

Should Lexington expand growth boundary? City leaders want to hear from you

Downtown Lexington on July 31, 2016. The last time the urban service boundary was expanded was in 1996. At the time, more than 5,400 acres were added.
Downtown Lexington on July 31, 2016. The last time the urban service boundary was expanded was in 1996. At the time, more than 5,400 acres were added.

Lexington’s Urban County Planning Commission will hold one of its first meetings Thursday on the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, a document that will guide growth and development for five years.

The Thursday work session of the planning commission is one of seven meetings the commission will hold early in 2017 to discuss the long-term plan.

The goal is for the planning commission to wrap up the first part of the plan — the goal and objectives — by summer. Those goals and objectives will then be forwarded to the Urban County Council for its approval.

But citizens will have lots of opportunity to weigh in on key issues the plan covers — including whether to expand Fayette County’s growth boundary — before the planning commission makes its final recommendations, said Christopher Woodall, manager of long-term planning for Lexington.

“We have been surprised and pleased to see so much interest from the public so early in this process,” Woodall said. “The more public input we can get, the better the plan will be.”

There will be five public meetings in various locations throughout the city beginning in early February and going through March, Woodall said.

“We are having them at night so we hope that more people can get to them,” Woodall said.

In addition, the city, Leadership Lexington and the Blue Grass Community Foundation are holding a series of meetings called “On The Table” on March 15. The goal is to have more than 5,000 people participate in 500 different conversations. Included in those discussions will be talk about the 2018 Comprehensive Plan.

The “On the Table” event is designed to help the city reach more people than just those who traditionally weigh in on land-use issues, Woodall said.

“The more we hear from our citizens, the better job we can do for Lexington,” said Mayor Jim Gray. “On the Table is a fun way to help plan Lexington’s future.”

Whether to expand the city’s urban service boundary will be the most contentious part of the plan. The last time the urban service boundary was expanded was in 1996. At the time, more than 5,400 acres were added.

In 2006, the Urban County Planning Commission considered, but ultimately rejected, adding areas including a 2,000-acre parcel along Winchester Road outside Interstate 75 and several parcels along Richmond Road inside I-75. The commission also rejected the idea of including 7,500 acres as an “urban reserve” for possible expansion.

The recession slowed both commercial and new home construction from 2008 to 2013. Now some developers argue more land should be added as the economy has recovered and easy-to-develop land inside the boundary is hard to find.

Others have argued that most of the 5,400 acres added to the urban service boundary in 1996 has still not been developed. Lexington should make it easier to build inside the growth boundary before considering expanding it, they say.

After hearing from the public, the planning commission will forward its recommendations to the council, probably after the council returns from its summer break in August.

The council will then have an opportunity to approve or alter the planning commission’s recommendations, Woodall said. After the goals and objectives are approved, the planning commission will then begin work on the second part of the comprehensive plan, which includes what types of development can be allowed in certain areas. The second part of the plan will be approved in 2018.

Lexington citizens can stay on top of the two-year process through a special website launched last week: www.imaginelexington.com.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall

Public meetings for the 2018 Comprehensive Plan

Feb. 1

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Beaumont Library

Feb. 8

9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Lexington Senior Center

Feb. 9

Northside Library

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Feb. 16

Central Library

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

March 15

On The Table

Various locations throughout the day