Lexington's leaders announced a smart business decision Tuesday.
Mayor Jim Gray, a huge majority of the Urban County Council, representatives of the Home Builders Association, Commerce Lexington and others endorsed developing within our existing urban area rather than expanding into the county's rural acreage.
The message came as the city's Planning Commission begins the process of updating the comprehensive plan for development, a task it takes up every five years.
This is a smart business decision for a number of reasons:
■ Gas is hovering near $4 a gallon, so there's every economic reason to encourage development that reduces commutes.
■ Expansion means stretching city services — fire, police, sewer, stormwater, etc., into new areas. With the city planning layoffs and cuts in services and employee benefits to balance the budget, avoiding that expense is only common sense.
■ Arguing about expansion is distracting, divisive and time-consuming, as veterans of the debates of 1996 and 2006 can attest. We have plenty of other challenges to occupy our time and energy.
■ Housing sales in Lexington remain lackluster. In the first quarter of this year, prices were down and time on the market was up compared to a year earlier. The market is not demanding a huge supply of new houses.
The 6,000-plus undeveloped acres within the existing urban service area provide opportunity should the market improve.
Those are just some of the short-term reasons this is a good decision. But good managers also take a longer view in their planning, and this is a good move from that perspective, too.
Lexington's brand, its allure, the thing that makes it unique among mid-sized cities, is the beauty of the countryside that surrounds the urban core.
Planning for growth that strengthens and enhances the core while protecting the countryside protects our brand, and the quality of life it represents.