Lexington planners voted Thursday to approve a series of zone changes that would allow a developer to build 340 apartments on land in the 6000 block of Man o’ War Boulevard, displeasing a standing-room only crowd.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Planning Commission voted 7 to 2 to re-zone approximately 25 acres from a community center zone to expansion area residential zones.
More than 1,000 people signed a petition opposing the zone change. The commission also received 53 letters opposing the development and more than a dozen neighbors urged the commission to turn down the request during a three hour and 30 minute public hearing.
The zone change now goes to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council for final approval.
Ball Homes requested the zone change to build 10, three- and four-story apartment buildings near Man o’ War and Polo Club Boulevard. It also wants to build a three-story mixed-use building that will have 11,600 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and 16 apartments on land that is already zoned for such community centers.
The 25 acres in question were added to the urban service area — the portion of Lexington where urban development is allowed — in 1996. That land became known as expansion area land.
Nick Nicholson, a lawyer for Ball Homes, said the owner of the property, Bill Blackford, has tried to sell the land as community center property for more than two decades and has been unable to sell it. The original expansion area plan recommended 62 acres for community center zone, which allows commercial as well as residential development. There are more than 90 acres of community center zoned land available for commercial development.
Nicholson said a 100-foot mature tree line between the back of the property and the Gleneagles subdivision will create a natural buffer between the development and the neighborhood. The location at Man o’ War and Polo Club boulevards will allow residents to enter and exit onto a major corridor, which is ideal when adding density, he said.
Nicholson said the city’s comprehensive development plan encourages greater density and development of under-utilized land inside the urban service area. Ball Home’s proposal does that, he said. Nicholson said a recent housing study showed the city needed an additional 6,000 apartments to meet housing needs.
He said a traffic study showed that if a commercial development went on those 25 acres rather than apartments there would be “four times the amount of traffic.”
Neighbors said the area should remain a community center zone. The area has more than 2,000 homes but neighbors said there are few places for people to gather, such as a coffee shop.
Nick Ratliff, who lives in the area but is also a real estate agent, said allowing the apartments “is going to have a negative impact” on nearby home values.
Neighbors also said the 100-foot buffer is not filled with mature trees. They will still be able to see the three- and four-story apartment buildings from their neighborhood.
Brad Wallace, who lives close to the proposed development, said having an apartment complex near his home “is not what I signed up for. I don’t want to look at the back side of an apartment complex.”
Others said they purchased homes in the area based on the current zoning.
Several members of the planning commission said they, too, had concerns about the zone change but there was no legal reason to deny it.
“Our job is to determine what’s best for Lexington,” said Frank Penn, a planning commission member.
In 2018, more than 11,000 people participated in the comprehensive planning process and overwhelmingly said they did not want to expand the growth boundary, he said. That means underutilized land must be developed. The comprehensive plan also says more types of housing — not just single-family homes — need to be built to increase density on available land.
Members who voted against the change: Graham Pohl and Carolyn Plumlee. Members who voted in favor for the zone change: Penn, Karen Mundy, L.M. Owens, William Wilson, Headley Bell, Larry Forester, Bruce Nicol Jr.