Unflappable under pressure: Chris King has served Lexington well

Chris King knows better than most that zoning can be regarded as a harbinger of imminent doomsday while it often takes months or even years for the benefits of thoughtful land-use planning to become evident and appreciated.

Lexington is fortunate to have had the benefit of King's dedication to preserving and enhancing our county's beauty and viability during his more than four decades as part of the local government's planning department.

The rewards are evident in our well-preserved rural area that contributes to and enables Lexington Fayette County's economic and cultural prosperity.

King, who has been director of planning since 2001, has played a critical role in shaping the policies that maintain the delicate balance among farmland and neighborhood preservation, economic growth and the quality of our built environment. On his watch Lexington Fayette County has crafted forward-thinking land-use policies that have gained national attention and admiration.

None of it has been easy. Notably, Beth Musgrave's story about King's retirement is peppered with references to the pressures of the task. Developers, with huge fortunes at stake, well-paid attorneys and ready checkbooks for campaign contributions, paint a picture of economic malaise sure to follow if farmland isn't plowed under for new subdivisions or other enterprises. Equally passionate but less-well-funded, residents often bristle when policies to create more dense development within the city begin to affect their neighborhoods.

Through thousands of hours of public meetings where tempers and pressures have run high, King has remained professional, polite and unflappable. With characteristically generous phrasing, King told Musgrave that Lexington is blessed to "have a population that cares."

King is leaving just as the Urban County Council takes up a proposal, vetted for almost four years through a committee and the Planning Commission, to allow more commercial activity in rural areas. Council members can honor King's years of service by assuring our landmark countryside and fragile natural areas are protected even as they create opportunity for more people to experience them.