Fayette County

Lexington council reverses, votes to include portions of Nicholasville Road in moratorium

Proposed town home site

Aerial view of 1847 Nicholasville Road site of a proposed zone change, to allow the construction of eight town houses.
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Aerial view of 1847 Nicholasville Road site of a proposed zone change, to allow the construction of eight town houses.

After a sometimes contentious two-hour discussion, the Lexington Fayette-Urban County Council voted Thursday night to include properties along Nicholasville Road in a six-month moratorium on demolitions and zone changes.

Thursday night’s 8 to 4 vote reverses a Feb. 7 council vote to exclude the odd-numbered addresses from 1733 to 1915 Nicholasville Road. The moratorium now includes the Nicholasville Road properties and addresses on Chesapeake Drive, Goodrich Avenue, Lackawanna Road, Norfolk Drive, Penmoken Park, Pensacola Drive, Rosemont Garden, Suburban Court and Wabash Avenue.

The issue of whether or not to include the Nicholasville Road properties in the proposed moratorium has been debated since late January.

The council voted 8 to 2 during a Feb. 7 meeting to exempt Nicholasville Road properties from the moratorium requested by the Pensacola Park neighborhood. The neighborhood has applied for a historic designation, commonly called an H-1 overlay. The moratorium is designed to protect properties in the H-1 area while the application for an H-1 designation is pending.

But some property owners on Nicholasville Road said they were not given notice their properties were included in the moratorium area and asked that they be excluded.

The vote came at the end of the Feb. 7 meeting after Pensacola Park neighbors who supported the moratorium and Councilman Jake Gibbs, who represents the area, had left the meeting. The late-meeting vote angered many in the neighborhood.

During Thursday night’s meeting, members of the Pensacola Park neighborhood urged the council to reverse the earlier council vote and keep the Nicholasville Road properties in the moratorium.

Phil Theobald, who lives on Rosemont Garden, said the moratorium is designed to give the entire neighborhood protection while its application for an H-1 overlay district is considered by the Urban County Planning Commission and the Board of Architectural Review. That process can take more than six months.

“To exclude the properties of Nicholasville Road is an injustice to the neighborhood as a whole,” Theobald said.

Stephen Voss, who also lives in Pensacola Park, said council members who had voted to exclude the Nicholasville Road properties have said that the 2019 Comprehensive Plan stresses infill and redevelopment along the city’s major corridors, including Nicholasvlle Road. But the properties from 1733 to 1915 Nicholasville Road are residential, Voss said.

“Nicholasville Road is not all commercial,” Voss said. “There is a whole stretch of residential properties on both sides of Nicholasville Road.”

That neighborhood should be protected, he said. Voss, an associate professor of political science at the University of Kentucky, said intact neighborhoods like Pensacola Park help the university recruit young talent.

Several lawyers spoke against the moratorium on behalf of Nicholavsille Road property owners. Nathan Billings, who represents the Greystone Lodge on Nicholasville Road, said there was nothing in city ordinances requiring a moratorium while an H-1 application was pending.

“There is not a single ordinance... that supports the moratorium along Nicholasville Road,” Billings said.

T.L. Wise, who owns property on Nicholasville Road, said in a letter to the council that he supports the exclusion. Wise said he was not notified of the moratorium, and it was only neighbors who opposed a rezoning for a town home development —which was approved by the planning commission in December —who sought the H-1 designation.

“This is a bald-faced attempt to restrict private property rights,” Wise said.

Jessica Voigt, who also owns property on Nicholasville Road, said she does not want to be excluded from the moratorium. Nor does another one of her neighbors who could not attend Thursday night’s meeting, she said.

“I feel like we are being discriminated against,” Voigt said.

Several council members who voted Feb. 7 to exclude the Nicholasville Road properties said during Thursday night’s meeting they had been verbally attacked in phone calls and emails by Pensacola Park neighbors.

Councilwoman Susan Lamb said she had received “heinous” emails and phone calls that questioned her integrity. Lamb said the council was not trying to subvert the process when it voted at the end of the meeting to exclude the Nicholasville Road properties. Lamb was one of the eight council members who originally voted to exclude the Nicholasville Road properties.

“That was well within the rights of this council,” Lamb said.

Councilwoman Jennifer Mossotti, who made the motion during the Feb. 7 meeting to exclude the Nicholasville Road properties, said she too had been attacked and maligned.

“I have received emails that were just horrific,” Mossotti said. “My integrity has been questioned.”

Mossotti was one of four council members who voted Thursday to remove the Nicholasville Road properties from the moratorium. Mossotti said the city has decided not to expand the urban service or growth boundary. That means more infill development inside the boundary and on the major corridors. Nicholasville Road is the main commercial corridor in Lexington, Mossotti said.

“We can not have our cake and eat it too,” Mossotti said.

Vice Mayor Steve Kay, who has voted consistently to keep the Nicholasville Road properties in the moratorium, said he didn’t agree with his colleagues’ vote on Feb. 7 but said there was nothing untoward about the vote.

“I do not in the least suspect the motives, the intention or the integrity of any of my colleagues,” Kay said.

A final vote on the moratorium is scheduled for March 7.

Those who voted to remove the Nicholasville Road properties from the moratorium: Mossotti, Fred Brown, Bill Farmer Jr., Amanda Bledsoe. Those who voted to keep the Nicholasville Road properties in the moratorium: Gibbs, Lamb, Kay, James Brown, Jennifer Reynolds, Kathy Plomin, Richard Moloney, Josh McCurn. Those who recused from voting: Chuck Ellinger, Angela Evans, Preston Worley. Ellinger owns property in the moratorium area. Evans and Worley work for a law firm that represents landowners in the moratorium area.

Beth Musgrave has covered government and politics for the Herald-Leader for more than a decade. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has worked as a reporter in Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Washington D.C.