Reading the coverage of the council’s Oct. 24 hearing regarding expansion of Lexington’s urban growth boundary, I was struck by some of the tired and repeated arguments in favor of expansion — we need more jobs; we will lose jobs and development to our neighboring counties; housing stock is dwindling; we are harming housing affordability; we can’t afford not to develop.
My favorite LOL moment was the argument from both council members and chamber of commerce reps claiming we don’t have “shovel ready land for large, industrial entities.” Who said anyone wants industrial developments? No one wants an industrial complex near their neighborhood or their horse farm. (If you do, please let the chamber know, so they can market your backyard to the next industrial manufacturer.)
Coldstream, mentioned as a potential location for business growth, is a desolate, underdeveloped site that could attract new businesses, but ... it hasn’t. For nearly 10 years, it has been unable to fill its office space or develop its vacant acreage. In fact, many businesses have come and gone over the past decade (remember the fanfare with which we rolled out the red carpet for Bingham McCutchen?). Nearly half of the research campus (335 acres) is available for development. Where are the corporations bringing great jobs? Where is that magical manufacturing facility that will save Lexington’s economy? Crickets.
Why hasn’t the economic development land on Lexington’s northern boundary been developed for its zoned purpose? Anyone? Why is every vacant parcel on the east and west ends developed for apartments, houses, gas stations, fast-food chains or car lots instead of these enigmatic job creators apparently lying in wait?
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Even with expansion, the land is privately owned, which makes no guarantee for its future use. And none of the adjacent landowners would support expansion if it excludes residential development. If council were to propose such an exclusion, the developers pleading for expansion would quickly grow quiet.
Don’t be fooled by the argument for jobs. Expansion is about building more homes, more roads, more sidewalks, more sewers, more fire stations, police stations and schools and, of course, more strip malls to service those new neighborhoods. At some point, Fayette County will have no green space to develop.
I want my children to know Lexington as an amazing city set in a picturesque landscape. We should not develop this finite resource without a strategic plan and a respectful vision. Council should uphold the Planning Commission’s recommendation and postpone expansion.
Shevawn Akers is a Realtor and former Urban County Council member representing the 2nd District.