Fayette County Residents Voice Concerns Over Urban Growth Management Proposal

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Concerns are mounting among residents of Fayette County as the Neighborhood Council (FCNC) has outlined significant objections to a proposed zoning ordinance aimed at managing urban growth. The Urban Growth Management Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment (UGMZ) currently under review by the Urban County Council has drawn criticism for its potential impacts on community character and resident displacement.

FCNC President Walt Gaffield communicated the council’s apprehensions in a May 6 letter to the Urban County Council obtained by The Lexington Times. “Increased density from single family and duplexes to eight-plexes, a rise in rental properties without oversight, and amplified commercial zoning in residential areas are among our major concerns,” Gaffield stated. The letter emphasizes the risks associated with the zoning ordinance, including gentrification and environmental issues, such as reduced green spaces and increased flooding risks.

One of the pressing issues cited in the document is the lack of a mandatory registration and inspection program for rental properties, which could lead to a decline in housing quality. “Most cities require rental property registration, and Lexington is behind in that area,” the document states. This oversight could exacerbate problems with deteriorating rental units as the city faces increasing pressures from real estate speculation and the proliferation of short-term rental properties.

The proposal also suggests increased commercial activity within residential zones, which FCNC fears could lead to displacement of homeowners, particularly in urban and minority neighborhoods. “Many current renters will not be able to afford the new buildings that replace their current residences,” the document adds.

Additionally, the FCNC criticizes the proposed ordinance for its optimistic assumptions about public transit improvements, which are seen as unrealistic given the current underutilization of the Lextran bus service. According to Commerce Lexington, only a small fraction of the county’s workforce uses public transit, suggesting that denser development alone is unlikely to boost ridership significantly.

On a positive note, the ZOTA aims to address issues like affordable housing, food deserts, economic development, and public transit. However, the FCNC calls for a more balanced approach, recommending that any development include a percentage of affordable housing and involve public engagement to ensure community needs are met.

The Neighborhood Council’s recommendations include requiring planning staff to coordinate residential development with public transit improvements and adding protective language for existing neighborhoods against incompatible developments.

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Paul Oliva is the Lexington Times Editor Emeritus. He grew up in Lexington.