Urban & Rural Balance
At the heart of every discussion about the future of Lexington is the balance between urban growth and rural protection and preservation. Lexington is a growing city and has agricultural assets worth preserving, but how can both be achieved? The answer is by growing intelligently through compact, fiscally responsible development patterns, the foundation of which was established in this city as the nation’s first urban service boundary.
This pattern of development has numerous benefits, including infrastructure cost savings, desirable placemaking opportunities, multimodal transportation options, enhanced connectivity, healthier communities, vibrant neighborhood-serving businesses, preservation of irreplaceable farmland, and many others as well. Smart growth patterns and rural preservation go hand-in-hand.
Where are we now?
Lexington’s urban growth is coupled with rural protections that have resulted in a desirable community with a more fiscally responsible development pattern than is typical of other areas throughout the United States.
The city of Lexington is comprised of 285 square miles, 85 squares miles of which are included in the Urban Service Boundary (USB). Roughly ¼ of the remaining 200 square miles are protected by the Purchase of Development Rights program, which safeguards farmland for food security and conservation of environmentally sensitive lands.
As of 2017 the U.S. Census estimated that the City of Lexington had a population of 321,959, a figure that has consistently increased over the years. Senior citizens will account for the greatest percentage of Lexington’s projected population increase.
The 2017 Housing Demand Study found a need for ~2,300 new housing units annually over the next 10 years. Infill and redevelopment will continue to be the foremost development strategy for the city. The amount of vacant land available for infill projects is roughly 10% of land within the USB. There are also significant redevelopment opportunities in the underutilized property along the city’s major arterial corridors.
Vision for Balance
Imagine Lexington is a product of the people of Lexington, and its implementation should reflect the best interests of the citizens it was created by and created for. Ensuring the outlined vision is followed is crucial, and placing safeguards to make that a reality is key to protecting the Plan’s integrity. Imagine Lexington is designed to provide clear expectations for this policy-based plan; if followed, it should result in a livable community that is desirable and forward-thinking.
This plan distributes the charge of accountability across a collection of interest groups. For citizens, accountability comes in the form of their continued contribution of educated and informed opinions that advise development and plan implementation. For the Division of Planning, accountability is held in the distribution of guidance and information, and doing so in a way that is transparent and accessible for the public.
For developers, accountability comes through with the Placebuilder, which includes criteria for zone change applications to ensure compliance with the Comprehensive Plan. The Placebuilder, paired with intentional and incremental text amendments that set the regulatory boundaries for development, will further reflect the Plan’s overall vision.
Accountability Policy #1 - Urban Service Boundary Process
The 2018 Goals & Objectives for Imagine Lexington call for creating a new process for determining the when, where, why, and how of future USB modifications. This advocacy for a new way of looking at the USB is the cornerstone of this Comprehensive Plan, and is the next evolution of the nation’s first urban service boundary.READ MORE >>
Accountability Policy #2 - Modernize the Zoning Ordinance
The last major overhaul of Lexington’s Zoning Ordinance in 1983, much needed in the wake of the City and County merger, also included significant revisions to the Land Subdivision Regulations. There was a focus on raising the bar for future development and ensuring that public infrastructure be built to standards that more adequately addressed public health and safety.READ MORE >>
Accountability Policy #3 - Implement the Placebuilder
Imagine Lexington is full of policies that guide how development should occur throughout the city, and all of them are important. However, it can be difficult to ascertain by simply glancing at the text of the plan what developers should be aiming for with new proposed development or redevelopment.READ MORE >>
Accountability Policy #4 - Develop Benchmarks & Metrics
Plans are only as good as their ability to gauge measurable results in a timely fashion. To know if a plan is reaching desired outcomes, it is imperative to track the successes and failures so future adjustments can be made and successes replicated. Imagine Lexington is crafted as a policy-based plan with very specific goals in mind.READ MORE >>
Accountability Policy #5 - Increase Alternative Transit Facilities
Historically, public infrastructure has been focused on creating the easiest and fastest means of transit for single-occupancy vehicles. This resulted in abundant wide lanes of paved asphalt, but limited pathways for pedestrians, cyclists or transit riders.READ MORE >>
Accountability Policy #6 - Public Outreach & Neighborhood Leaders
In 2017, as part of a partnership with the Blue Grass Community Foundation, Leadership Lexington, Fayette County Public Schools, and many other organizations, the Division of Planning sought input into this Imagine Lexington plan with On the Table.READ MORE >>
Sustainable development is perhaps the best way to discuss stewardship of Lexington’s land and resources. This Plan calls for all future development to be sustainable from an economic, environmental, and social standpoint. This means providing for the needs of current citizens without compromising the needs of those in the future.
Development that is economically sustainable provides patterns that are fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars and that provide employment opportunities. Environmentally sustainable development is the result of responsible use of the community’s natural and built resources. Lastly, socially sustainable development requires us to ensure opportunities exist for all citizens and to consider the unintended consequences of land use decisions, which is significant for both a local and regional planning efforts.
Steadfast stewardship of Lexington’s rural landscape through requiring a compact and fiscally responsible growth pattern is another key component of this Plan. There are a number of tools at the community’s disposal to protect agricultural land, while simultaneously enhancing our urban area. Being faithful stewards of this land is one of the most compelling reasons to utilize these tools and employ sound planning principles.
Stewardship Policy #1 - Stone Fence Inventory
Stone fences are iconic to the historic and cultural landscape of Lexington’s rural heritage. They play a unique role in the region’s identity and contribute to the scenic views, rural corridors and rolling hills. Despite the role stone fences play in defining the sense of place within the Inner Bluegrass Region, they are in critical danger of being lost to development and neglect.READ MORE >>
Stewardship Policy #2 - Connect Regional Economic Hubs
As Lexington’s economic and social capital grows, there will be impacts on surrounding counties and cities. The latent effects of these successes can change neighboring communities in a variety of ways, including their economies, housing stock, and industrial development.READ MORE >>
Stewardship Policy #3 - Facilitate Inter-county Connectivity
A regional transportation network provides for the movement of goods and people though a multimodal system, which includes trains, trucks, buses, cars, bikes, and pedestrian options. As the regional transportation network grows, a viable system of accessible transportation alternatives should be implemented for residents and commuters alike.READ MORE >>
Stewardship Policy #4 - Coordinate Tourism of the Bluegrass Region
Lexington is not alone in reaping the natural and historical benefits of the Bluegrass Region, as the surrounding counties all have similar assets, as well unique cultural and historic draws that make the region an attractive tourist destination.READ MORE >>
Stewardship Policy #5 - Rural Activity Centers
The 2017 Rural Land Management Plan has a stated policy emphasis for the Rural Activity Centers (RACs) to “maximize their potential for jobs while maintaining their boundaries and minimizing impacts to the rural area.” The Rural Service Area (RSA) includes 1,562 acres dedicated to the four RACs: Blue Sky Industrial Park, Avon (Blue Grass Station), Spindletop Research Park, and the Blue Grass AiREAD MORE >>
Stewardship Policy #6 - Agritourism & Ecotourism
The Agritourism Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment was important in further establishing protections for the horse industry, as well as other agriculture industries. The impact of that text amendment should be monitored to identify opportunities to add further complementary uses that expand tourism options without negatively affecting existing industries.READ MORE >>
Stewardship Policy #7 - Consult with Adjacent Counties
Regional planning efforts in the past have been difficult endeavors for many reasons; however, there is a shared goal among staff from all of Lexington’s regional neighbors to advance the basic principles of urban planning.READ MORE >>
Stewardship Policy #8 - Sustainability for Present & Future
The focus of sustainable development is to raise the standard of living for current residents without precluding the same opportunity to future generations. There are three facets to sustainability through which all proposed development should be reviewed: Economic, Social, and Environmental.READ MORE >>
Stewardship Policy #9 - Protect & Preserve Rural Settlements
Lexington has 19 rural settlements that are essential to the history and fabric of the rural landscape. Three of the historic settlements, Bracktown, Cadentown, and Jonestown, have been absorbed into the Urban Service Area, while 16 reside in the Rural Service Area, totaling 505 acres.READ MORE >>
There are many challenges and opportunities related to urban growth in Lexington, but, ultimately, growth is inevitable and encouraged. Imagine Lexington has mentioned Lexington’s consistent growth throughout the plan, realizing that many approach this fact with trepidation; however, if proper planning is executed, growth can enhance the community on many levels.
Building upon the 2013 plan, Imagine Lexington continues the focus on “infill and redevelopment” within the entire Urban Service Area, realizing that the community’s land use policies make all development within the city vitally important to achieving community goals. With infill as a priority, it is also essential to uphold the need for open space. To make the most of urban land, regulations must be modified to reflect the importance of open space and green space for development.
The concept of growth similarly necessitates discussion of the role major corridors play in overall development strategy. This Plan calls for the study of Lexington’s major corridors to identify redevelopment opportunities that will support mass transit initiatives and account for shifts in land uses over time.
With all of the changes anticipated in the future, the opportunities for Lexington are immense. Preemptive planning through Imagine Lexington’s vision will continue the city along a path that builds on the past, but also embraces the future.
Growth Policy #1 - Infill & Redevelopment Area Regulations
The first Infill & Redevelopment Committee was created in 1996, which led to the 2001 Residential I/R Study, official adoption of the defined Infill & Redevelopment Area in the 2001 Comprehensive Plan, and subsequent regulatory changes to implement the Plan.READ MORE >>
Growth Policy #2 - Downtown Development & Improvements
The implementation of the infill and redevelopment boundary and its corresponding special zoning provisions was a boon to downtown growth, coming at a time when citizens began to take interest, once again, in living in a more urban setting.READ MORE >>
Growth Policy #3 - Varied, Abundant, & Connected Greenspaces
The Bluegrass identity sets Lexington apart from the rest of the world. It is vital that this identity be preserved and maintained through the designation and preservation of greenspace; growth should strike a harmonious balance between development and preservation.READ MORE >>
Growth Policy #4 - Adaptive Reuse
Structures often outlive the function that they were built to serve, and there is nothing new about stabilizing and rehabbing an old structure; however, under modern Zoning Ordinance provisions, refitting an old building for a new use is often problematic, particularly given the existing suburban parking requirements.READ MORE >>
Growth Policy #5 - Historic Assets & Future Growth
With any future development of Lexington, reverence and critical review of the city’s history is imperative.READ MORE >>
Growth Policy #6 - New Development & Historic Districts
Traditionally, the application of zoning has been almost universally about softening the edges of varying land uses against each other. American economic shifts have resulted in less need for stepdown zoning, as today planners are less likely to need to address mitigating the impacts of manufacturing and industrial uses on less intense areas directly adjacent.READ MORE >>
Growth Policy #7 - Autonomous Vehicles
While computer technology has improved rapidly and dramatically over the last 20 years, conversely, automobiles have traditionally followed a much more deliberately slow-paced and methodical development process, primarily to ensure that safety is enhanced with every iteration of advancement.READ MORE >>
Growth Policy #8 - Proactively Rezone Properties
Previous small area plans, which contained future land use recommendations, have been critical to facilitating future development in those locations. Recommendations in the South Nicholasville Road Small Area Plan led the way for The Summit at Fritz Farm, an area that had been the subject of numerous failed zone change attempts in the past.READ MORE >>
Growth Policy #9 - Missing Middle Housing
Historically, Lexington and many other cities were built with a mix of housing types that included single-family homes, small four-plexes, carriage houses, stacked duplexes, courtyard apartments, and larger apartment clusters, all with fewer off-street parking spaces in walkable neighborhoods that were the fundamental building blocks of the city.READ MORE >>
Growth Policy #10 - Underutilized Property
Since the beginning of the century, the United States has seen significant growth in annual e- commerce sales. Shifts in consumer behavior, particularly among millennials, have contributed to a near 15% increase in online sales revenue every year since 2010.READ MORE >>
Growth Policy #11 - Land Use Changes
State statue provides direction on the findings necessary for proposed map amendments or zone changes. The primary threshold to clear is that the proposal must be in agreement with the adopted comprehensive plan.READ MORE >>