Op-Ed

Don’t let city planners dictate how we live

Subdivisions like this one around Sandersville Elementary contain single-family detached homes where many Americans prefer to live.
Subdivisions like this one around Sandersville Elementary contain single-family detached homes where many Americans prefer to live. cbertram@herald-leader.com

For many years I have discussed and debated city planning from the perspective of the homebuilding industry. But not today. I am retired and have no financial interest in whether or not the Urban Service Area is expanded.

I write as one who has been blessed to live here most of my 67 years. My wife of 46 years is a native Lexingtonian and we were married here. Our children were born and raised here. I write because I love Lexington.

“Is Lexington ready for increasing (housing) densities within a given area?” So asked Herald-Leader contributing columnist Tom Martin of Vice Mayor Steve Kay, referring to existing neighborhoods inside the Urban Service Area. Your neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods.

“Well ready or not, here it comes,” Kay answered candidly with seemingly little concern that:

“One of the truths about increased density is that it almost inevitably has a negative impact, whether perceived or real, on the people adjacent;”

“So, if it means more height, it means you have less view;”

“If it means more units, you have more traffic.”

These policies will certainly mean taller buildings and more housing units.

If you live in a middle-class neighborhood your city planners and politicians want to have apartments built around you. Apartments that will block your view, increase traffic, and, as Kay admits, inevitably have a negative impact on you and your neighbors. Kay advises that when infill reaches your vicinity, “it’s helpful to take a broad perspective.”

More than 80 percent of all American families desire to live in a single-family detached home. If you are in this group, official Lexington does not want you. Documents from the Planning Commission’s July work session leave no doubt that people who want to live in such an environment need to seek it in the adjacent counties.

Rather than just putting up a bunch of houses the planners would have the undeveloped open space and underdeveloped land in your neighborhood used for apartments or other high-intensity uses.

The objective of these guidelines is the extreme preservation of rural land. This notwithstanding that our leaders are already taking $2 million a year from ordinary taxpayers and giving it to rural landowners to not develop land.

Not content to alter the character and distinction of your community, Kay and planners want to fundamentally change the way you live. They want you out of your car, on a bus or a bicycle, or on foot. They say increasing housing density will make using mass transit more convenient. To be fair, there are situations where using mass transit is advantageous but in a small city like Lexington they are few.

I commend Kay for his openness. He is the first smart-growth advocate in my memory to honestly set forth what this plan will do to average citizens.

Our town is a place for people to live and grow and prosper. Our residential neighborhoods and tree-lined streets are a source of pride to us not a shameful cancer on the pristine rural countryside. They are admired by so many who visit here. My son-in-law, who lives in Northern Virginia, recently praised Lexington as the prettiest city in the country.

I agree and object to it being remade in the image of Portland, Ore.

Joe R. B. Hacker of Lexington is a retired housing developer.

At issue: Article by contributing columnist Tom Martin, “What do we want our community to look like when we’re done developing?”

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