Lexington Corridors Commission discusses beautification, budget, and new ZOTAs

This staff report was created from notes taken by Max Puchalsky for The Lexington Times Observer Program

Lexington, KY — The Corridors Commission of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government met on Thursday to tackle a variety of issues, including the Commission’s FY2024 budget, maintenance contracts, the North Broadway Greening initiative, and community development projects on Manchester Street.

The purpose of the Corridors Commission is to assess the major roads of Lexington-Fayette County, especially the major and minor arterials, regarding but not limited to aesthetic qualities, viewsheds, landscaping, fencing, signage, litter control, bike and pedestrian considerations and other elements the Commission may deem appropriate.

Urban County Council Members James Brown (chair), Denise Gray, Jennifer Reynolds, and Whitney Baxter attended the meeting along with other stakeholders. The meeting included unanimous decisions on several key matters. Notably, Council Member Preston Worley, also a member of the Commission, was absent.

Listen to the full meeting

Approval of quarterly maintenance contracts

The commission reviewed quotes from horticultural contractor Pack’s Nursery. The quotes total $41,400, slightly over the $40,000 maintenance budget and an increase from $39,000 last year. Maintenance projects included $70,000 for Town Branch Commons, $29,400 for Newtown/I-75 horticultural beds, and $15,000 for Leestown Rd. medians.

Corridors Commission FY24 Budget Update, Sept. 18, 2023.
Click image to enlarge. (LFUCG)

Jennifer Carey, Director of the Division of Environmental Services, recommended the Corridors Commission proceed and award horticultural contracts to Pack’s Nursery. Council Member Brown entertained a motion to accept bids as presented. It passed with unanimous approval.

After the vote, it was revealed that the maintenance quotes do not include watering as that would have increased costs. Director Carey suggested that the Commission may need to issue a separate request for watering quotes to keep beds watered, for example, during a drought.

North Broadway Greening

Stan Harvey and Jordan Sebastian of Lord Aeck Sargent, the architecture and design firm, presented a feasibility assessment of the N. Broadway Medians. Their proposal includes adding three medians covering four intersections along N. Broadway: Dover Rd., Southgate Dr., Northgate Dr., and Linwal Rd. The Commission had initially recommended a focus on vertical impact such as trees and banners, but the density of intersections creates limitations for vertical impact so as to preserve driver and pedestrian sightlines.

Three North Broadway medians will soon receive new plantings as part of the Corridors Commission’s efforts. (Lord Aeck Sargent)

Jordan Sebastian, a landscape architect, noted the proposed plan will involve excavation of the road to make space for the width of the median. The light green sections represent the shortest-growing plant material such as groundcover or annuals. The dark green portions represent shrubs up to 3’ high. The yellow sections are areas amenable to trees and taller shrubs, yet are also difficult to mow. Notably, trees cannot be more than 4” caliper in diameter, so the City needs to be mindful in their selections to avoid fast-growing trees. Pack’s Nursery provided a plant palette with suggestions and options for each tier. The architects also provided hardscape options such as stamped concrete, pavers, and various light poles and banners that are designed to break away for safety.

North Broadway median planting pallette. (Lord Aeck Sargent/Pack’s Nursery)

On the relatively high speed of the road, necessitating medians, Jordan Sebastian noted, “I walked all of these, along each side and down the middle, and I was not comfortable.” There was a suggestion that the City widen the medians and Chair James Brown responded that instead of widening the medians, the City may narrow the lanes and add dedicated bike lanes and walking paths. Indeed, there is funding at the State level to do that, but “it’s not on [the Department of Transportation’s] radar to do anytime soon,” according to Brown.

Corridors Commission Chair James Brown speaks at Thursday’s meeting. (Max Puchalsky)

Praising the plan, Council Member Gray said,

As someone that is representing on this board or the commission that is representing this area, someone that’s living this area, basically all my life. This is such a great start to beautify this area because the north side of Lexington does feel overlooked by the city. And this is showing that side of town that we actually do care. And we do want to beautify all parts of Lexington. So this is a wonderful, wonderful, as I call it, a great start.

District 6 Council Member Denise Gray

The Corridors Commission voted unanimously to proceed with the Encroachment Permit process and the issuance of a Construction Contract.

Manchester Street Update

Next on the agenda was an update on Manchester Street, presented by Council Member Jennifer Reynolds, who said the area has lots of traffic and features new businesses like the Manchester Hotel, the James E Pepper Distillery District Campus, and The Burl, which is expanding. There is also the Town Branch bike trail. According to Council Member Reynolds, many residents and businesses feel there hasn’t been enough investment by the City in the area, which is a major tourism draw for Lexington.

Reynolds said the top priorities of businesses and residents in this area are:

  • Arches that say “Distillery District” will go from one side of the grass over the street to the other side on Newtown Pike and Manchester. The arches will be bigger than the current sign and will need State approval, although, the State knows the City is working on it.
  • More pedestrian lighting
  • More wayfinding signs – for example, “distillery district that way”, and indicating the Rupp area, and other points of interest.
  • Fence repair, including working with local artists to do murals on the fence
  • Adding a crosswalk. The City is working with the State on this. Residents are interested in colorful crosswalks to draw attention to the area.
  • McConnell House facelift–A full renovation would be very expensive, so they are looking at quick facelift options such as a new door.
  • Additional parking
  • Ways to make the area safer and more beautiful. The businesses feel disconnected from downtown and Town Branch, like they didn’t get the same attention as downtown businesses.

It was not immediately clear how Reynolds determined resident priorities for the report, which focused primarily on business interests and generating tourism.

The Corridors Commission conducts its business on Thursday, September 21, 2023. (Max Puchalsky)

Upcoming ZOTAs and Major Roadway Corridor Ordinances

Next, Eve Miller Wallingford presented on Upcoming Zoning Ordinance Text Amendments (ZOTAs) and Major Roadway Corridor Ordinances. The Division of Environmental Services, in coordination with the Division of Planning, is undergoing a review of Zoning Ordinances related to landscaping. They are updating standards, including the Planting Manual, and several outdated ordinances. Three ordinances, in particular, are being considered: Article 18 (Landscaping), Article 26 (Trees), and Article 6 of Subdivision Regulations (Street Trees) with intent to repeal all seven of the landscape ordinances.

Some issues with these ordinances, according to Wallingford’s presentation:

Downtown Corridor

  • The Downtown City Street Tree Ordinance from 1998 specifies tree types for different streets and requires a 35 ft. spacing between trees, regardless of species or size. This could be outdated and not aligned with current urban planning standards.

Georgetown Road

  • Ordinance 133-89 focuses on beautification and safety but restricts building permits and requires a 15 ft. wide easement with evergreen trees. The state’s plans for road upgrades could conflict with these requirements.

Harrodsburg Road

  • Ordinances from 1987 and 1988 suggest a landscaping plan for the entire corridor and discuss access spacing, which may now be incompliant with current development standards.

Man O’ War Boulevard

  • Ordinances from 1991 and 1992 require property owners to landscape medians but exclude properties built before 1991. This could create inconsistencies in the landscape.

Newtown Pike

  • A 2008 ordinance requires property owners to landscape medians and erect a horse farm fence. However, some requirements conflict with the current Planting Manual.

Old Frankfort Pike

Richmond Road

  • Multiple amendments to the original 1983 ordinance have led to disjointed requirements for landscaping and trail construction. Some recommended tree species are no longer suitable due to various issues like pests and diseases.

The Division of Environmental Services is reviewing these ordinances with the aim to repeal and update them, to better align with current standards and master plans. The proposal will be discussed again at the next Commission meeting, then go to the Planning Commission in November. If the Planning Commission is supportive, then text changes will begin following the ZOTA process.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Corridors Commission will take place on October 19, however, the Commission may schedule a separate meeting regarding the forthcoming Typology Study. Past Corridor Commission meeting packets may be found here.

Top photo by Max Puchalsky

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