Affordable Housing Hijacked: Lexington Council and Fayette Alliance play tug of war, leaving citizens in the cold

It’s often said that instructions are only as good as the entity that follows them, be it person or machine. Anyone who’s taken a basic computer science course will understand this. In the realm of programming, it becomes clear that computers, while exceptional at following instructions, lack the nuanced understanding inherent to human cognition. They do exactly what they’re told, and not an iota more.

A common exercise in Computer Science 101 illustrates this point. Students are tasked with writing an algorithm for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The result is invariably a fascinating showcase of literal interpretations. Neglect to include a crucial step such as, “unscrew the lid of the peanut butter jar,” and you’ll find the bread untouched, the peanut butter jar unopened, and your virtual sandwich non-existent. The computer adheres to the instructions to the letter, revealing a glaring absence of common sense or initiative.

It appears that the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council has been taking governance lessons from such a computer. The people of Lexington-Fayette expressed their desire for affordable housing and expansion of urban boundaries, which the Council seemingly heard. However, they treated the task as if it were a simple command – “Expand the Urban Service Area (USA)” – a command robotically followed with scant regard for the nuances and complexities such a decision entails. In essence, they operated with the lid still firmly affixed to the jar. They heeded the command but failed to comprehend its full implications, subtleties of the process, and the intended outcome.

This oversight has ignited what will likely be a protracted and contentious lawsuit from the Fayette Alliance and other parties.

This council blunder was not the only misstep in this unfolding drama. Upon receiving a warning letter from the Fayette Alliance’s legal counsel, highlighting potential conflicts of interest among Council members, some councilors quickly labeled the move as “intimidation.” They challenged the Alliance to take action, only to be met with a full-fledged lawsuit – a miscalculation leading to an awkward position.

The Fayette Alliance and its represented plaintiffs, however, are not immune to criticism. Their actions carry a whiff of hypocrisy. For instance, the Alliance previously declared that expanding the Urban Service Area would not reduce housing costs. Yet in this lawsuit, they suggest that such an expansion could lead to decreased property values – a contradiction that undermines their stance.

Moreover, while the Alliance claims to champion equitable growth in the Lexington-Fayette community, the interests it represents in this lawsuit seem to serve a privileged few. Billy C. Justice’s concern that the expansion could jeopardize the profitability of his future condominium project, and farmer Robert James’ opposition to the expansion – particularly given his property’s enrollment in the Purchase of Development Rights program – raise questions about whether the Alliance is truly acting in the community’s best interest.

In this tug of war, it’s the average citizens of Lexington-Fayette, those seeking affordable housing options, who are caught in the crossfire. As the elites squabble and the Council stumbles, the housing situation remains dire. It’s hard to stomach that what should have been a straightforward goal – the expansion of the USA for affordable housing – has become a convoluted mess serving the interests of a select few.

In the final analysis, it seems that the rich and powerful have complicated a simple request. As courtrooms become the battleground for this legal showdown, let’s not forget the real issue at stake: the plight of ordinary citizens in search of affordable housing, sidelined in a clash of egos and interests.

Photo: Council member Preston Worley (left) and Fayette Alliance Executive Director Brittany Roethemeier. (LexTV screenshots overlayed on Fayette Alliance, et al. V. LFUCG Council lawsuit cover page)