Support planners’ vision for growth

Aerial photo of downtown Lexington in 2013
Aerial photo of downtown Lexington in 2013 Herald-Leader

For over a year, Lexington-Fayette County’s Planning Department has been hard at work on the 2018 update to the Comprehensive Plan.

The plan is updated every five years and provides the blueprint for how and where our community grows. The first step in the process is for the Urban County Council to adopt the overarching goals and objectives that guide more detailed decisions on everything from zoning categories to street width. The goals were based on objective data, sound planning principles and overwhelming public sentiment.

The public hearing on those goals and objectives is Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. in the Government Center, 200 E. Main St. Citizens who care about Lexington’s growth should attend and share their opinions.

The question is not “if” we grow, but “how” we grow.

The Planning Commission has recommended to not expand the Urban Services Boundary or Rural Activity Centers. With over 17,000 acres of vacant, undeveloped and underutilized land inside the current boundary, we have plenty of room to grow our vibrant city without threatening the agricultural industries and Bluegrass landscape so central to our economic development and quality of life.

Our agricultural industries account for $2.3 billion in annual economic activity and support one out of every 12 jobs in Fayette County. Our signature farmland and rural area anchor a burgeoning travel and tourism industry, accounting for an additional $2 billion in annual economic activity and providing over 15,000 jobs for our citizens.

Planning Commission recommendations address fundamental growth issues facing our community, including affordable housing, housing for seniors and young professionals, economic development, design guidelines, parks and greenspaces, environmental stewardship and transportation.

The planning staff has taken unprecedented efforts to engage the public and gather opinion. Through the “On the Table” event, Greenspace Survey, public input meetings, Emerge Conference, and online form, over 11,000 citizens shared their views. Overwhelmingly, our community does not support expansion of the Urban Services Boundary.

The public input makes clear that Lexingtonians value our farmland, landscape and natural areas. Our community supports creation of a vibrant city through responsible and equitable infill and redevelopment, but wants policies to ensure intentionality, context-sensitive design and transparency.

Directing development and investment inside our current city limits is fiscally responsible; accommodates growth sustainably, and stimulates investment into and improvement of established neighborhoods, public spaces and commercial areas. We should continue to invest in, improve and repair what we’ve already built. Given limited resources, Lexington cannot afford to do otherwise.

We were asked to “Imagine Lexington,” and we did that with a clear and consistent vision for our community. We applaud the Planning Commission and its staff for the innovative, sustainable and achievable vision they have laid out for our community. We urge the council to respect the hard work, research and public input that form the basis of the recommendations. Giving citizens the opportunity to share their voices is important. However, it is also important that those voices are heard and respected.

Those unable to attend the public hearing can contact their council member. For more information, visit fayettealliance.com.

Susan D. Speckert is executive director of the Fayette Alliance.