Fayette County

Fight over growth boundary shifts to Lexington council as planners reject expansion

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Planning Commission voted 7 to 4 Thursday to recommend Kentucky’s second-largest city keep its current growth boundary.

The recommendation to keep the growth boundary is part of the goals and objectives of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, which will guide growth in Fayette County for the next five years. Whether or not to expand the growth boundary is the most contentious part of the plan. The Urban Service Boundary was last expanded in 1996, when more than 5,400 acres were opened for development.

The vote came after two hours of debate. The city’s planning staff had recommended keeping the current growth boundary in July.

The recommendations now go to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council, which has final say on the comprehensive plan.

Vice Mayor Steve Kay said Wednesday he will appoint a special committee — which will include all 15 council members — to review the recommendations. The council has 90 days to vote on the planning commission’s recommendations.

“There will be other opportunities for public comment,” Kay said.

Members of the business community and many developers told the planning commission at a public hearing Aug. 31 that Lexington is already losing prospective businesses because there is not enough shovel-ready land in Lexington.

Meanwhile, farming preservation and neighborhood groups argued Fayette County has thousands of available acres for development. That land needs to be developed before the county considers opening more land for growth, they said.

Chris Woodall, director of long-term planning, told the commission that it made some tweaks to the goals and objectives after hearing from the public. Some of those changes included providing and identifying publicly controlled economic development land to meet Fayette County’s need for jobs.

The goals and recommendations also include focusing on development in underutilized commercial corridors and providing greater flexibility for builders to create more dense developments.

Planning Commissioner Will Berkley tried to amend the goals and objectives to include a new goal that would allow the planning commission to reconsider the growth boundary in two years. That motion was defeated 6 to 5.

Planning Commissioner Mike Cravens said the group never got the chance to talk about expansion.

“You just laid them down on the desk and said no expansion,” said Cravens.

Jim Duncan, the director of planning, said the commission had spent months discussing the staff’s recommendations and had the opportunity to discuss expanding the growth boundary.

“I can’t support these goals and objectives,” Cravens said. “Inside the boundary to me is just as beautiful as the area outside the boundary. I would hate to see a self-made noose of a boundary destroy that.”

Planning Commissioner Mike Owens said he supported keeping the current growth boundary.

“We are dealing with a cost-of-land situation, not availability of land,” Owens said.

Those who voted against the 2018 Comprehensive Plan were Cravens, Berkley, Karen Mundy and Carolyn Richardson. Those who voted in favor were Owens, Frank Penn, Larry Forester, William Wilson, Carolyn Plumlee, Headley Bell and Patrick Brewer.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall