Fayette County

Neighborhood fights back against city efforts to change homes' addresses

The home at 281/2 Richmond Ave. is one of two residences on the street that have had a 1/2 designator for years. The number is a violation of a Lexington ordinance.
The home at 281/2 Richmond Ave. is one of two residences on the street that have had a 1/2 designator for years. The number is a violation of a Lexington ordinance.

A 16-year-old pizza guy can find Charlie Zigmund's house at 281/2 Richmond Avenue, but the city worries that police and fire might have a problem because his house number contains a fraction.

So the city's office of enhanced 911 has told Zigmund that his address, where he has lived for 30 years, will have to change.

In fact, 48 houses in the first block of Richmond Avenue in the Kenwick neighborhood are supposed to have their addresses changed because several don't conform to a city ordinance regarding addresses.

"I think that is a slap in the face of 911 responders to think a police or fireman is not able to tell that 281/2 is between 28 and 29," said Deb Winograd, who has lived at 26 Richmond Avenue for 17 years.

The ordinance says houses cannot have single-digit street numbers. Several house addresses on Richmond Avenue have single digits.

Houses can't have fractional addresses. Zigmund's and one other house have fractions.

And house numbers must be in sequence. Richmond Avenue has a gap where street numbers jump from 44 to 180.

Zigmund and his neighbors are outraged at what the city wants to do. "I've never had anybody have a problem finding my house and I've lived here 30 years," Zigmund said.

David Lucas, director of enhanced 911, and Paul Hockensmith, a geographic informational system analyst, recently met with Richmond Avenue residents to explain why their addresses had to change.

Residents weren't convinced.

"We were told their computer program doesn't handle letters or fractions," Zigmund said. "My reaction was, my goodness, this is the 21st century. Surely, they could write a program that would handle letters and numbers in the same address."

David Cooper at 29 Richmond Avenue said the city "does not need to be throwing money at this stage of the game, as bad as they need money. There are more important things to spend money on than making people change their address."

Hockensmith said the city's address office was simply enforcing an ordinance that's on the books, an ordinance approved by Urban County Council that sets out the do's and don'ts of street addressing in Fayette County.

Council members Diane Lawless and Bill Farmer have met with neighbors on Richmond Avenue. Farmer sympathizes with residents who don't want to lose "the implied special nature of having a single digit or double digit address. (As a city) we don't have to do that to them."

At the same time, the city's address office was simply doing its job, enforcing an ordinance. The ordinance should be changed, he said. Technology is available that would allow residents to keep their addresses, Farmer added.

"Why put policy before people, and that's the bottom line. We're putting 911 policy before people on Richmond Avenue," he said.

Bringing uniformity to street addresses in Fayette County began on the mid-1990s, when the federal government said every city was required to develop a numbering system for 911 services.

A controversial project was implemented to rename Lexington's disjointed and mis-numbered streets to accommodate a new, enhanced computerized 911 phone system.

Between 1996 and 1999, approximately 9,000 addresses were changed, either the street name or the street number. Since 1999, an additional 2,500 addresses have been changed.

"The wholesale, glaring problem phase is pretty much over; 11,500 addresses have been changed," Hockensmith said.

The city's address office in the Division of Enhanced 911 has three full-time employees who are systematically working their way through Fayette County to bring all 168,000 addresses into compliance.

"Our mission is to create and maintain a set of addresses to make it as efficient as possible for public safety to get to houses, Hockensmith said, adding there are 220,000 calls to 911 in Fayette County each year.

Asked how many addresses remain to be changed, Hockensmith said, "I have no idea. It will be way past my lifetime that the city will be working on it."

After Richmond Avenue, the city will look at other neighborhoods north and east of Richmond Road. "It's a time-consuming process. We go out and validate what is there — with a map and aerial photograph," he said.

All addresses have to be approved by council. When Richmond Avenue came up to have the addresses changed, council tabled the motion.