Fayette County

Downtown Lexington management district board taking shape

The goal of a new downtown management district would be to make Lexington’s core cleaner, safer and more inviting.
The goal of a new downtown management district would be to make Lexington’s core cleaner, safer and more inviting.

The 15-member board of a new downtown management district that aims to make Lexington’s core cleaner, safer and more inviting hopes to start meeting by the end of January.

But the district probably won’t start providing services until at least next fall, when taxes needed to create the district start to trickle in.

The Lexington Urban County Council recently approved the appointment of 11 members of the board at its Dec. 8 meeting. The remaining four board members are expected to be approved in early January, said Jamie Emmons, Mayor Jim Gray’s chief of staff.

Drew Fleming, a newly appointed board member, said Friday that he hopes the group can have its inaugural meeting by late January. The board must develop a budget and a business plan before the district can start providing services.

“I believe it’s going to be a game-changer for downtown,” Fleming said. “It’s something a lot of our peer cities have had for some time.”

The council voted 12-3 in May to create the district after 51 percent of tax-paying property owners in the district signed a petition saying they supported creating the district. State law requires support of 33 percent of all land owners in the district who represent 51 percent of all assessed value. The Downtown Lexington Corp., which spearheaded efforts to collect signatures, had the signatures of 51 percent of tax-paying property owners in the district who represented 62.5 percent of the assessed property value.

Property owners inside the district will pay a tax of 10 cents per $100 of assessed value beginning this fall. Initial estimates show that taxes on the 567 parcels inside the district would generate about $362,000 a year. The district is bordered by Midland Avenue, High Street, parts of Second Street and Newtown Pike.

That money will start trickling in when taxes are paid, which typically happens about October.

Fleming, the former chairman of the Downtown Lexington Corp., has been involved with the creation of the district for more than a year. He said the management district board will need to decide whether it will hire an outside group to provide services including street cleaning, snow and litter removal.

“Other management districts typically outsource services such as ambassador programs and cleaning the streets,” Emmons said. “But that will ultimately be up to the board to decide.”

There are approximately 1,200 such districts in the country. Louisville has had a downtown management district since the early 1900s.

Fleming said it’s possible that the board will discuss getting a short-term loan so it can provide some services before the district receives all of its tax revenues. But those are discussions the full board must have, he said.

“My goal as a board member is to get the biggest rate of return as possible for taxpayers,” Fleming said.

Other management districts provide amenities such as additional trash cans, more planters and more signs to make downtown more welcoming, in addition to litter and graffiti removal. Those who supported the creation of the district said Lexington’s downtown attracts thousands of visitors each year. It needs additional amenities to make it more welcoming. Those who opposed it said an additional tax would make it more difficult to keep and lure more businesses downtown.

The management district will automatically sunset after five years. If the district is not popular with taxpayers within its boundaries, it can be dissolved.