Theme B of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan- Protecting the Environment

The Bluegrass region is home to the most beautiful countryside and natural areas. As Lexingtonians, we value our farmland, greenways, waterways, and natural areas. Yet, Kentucky ranked 48th in WalletHub.com’s recent study of the greenest states, which compared all 50 states on environmental quality, eco-friendly behaviors, and contributions to climate change. In fact, Kentucky came in last in environmental quality, in large part due to our poor water quality.

On April 19th, the city’s Planning Staff presented their draft policy recommendations on Theme B of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan—“Protecting the Environment.” Fayette Alliance was proud to serve as an expert in a roundtable discussion on this issue with respect to the importance of preserving Fayette County’s most precious natural resource—the prime soils that comprise nearly 90% of our rural area. These soils are the “factory floor” of our productive agricultural industries, which account for $2.3 billion in annual economic activity and support 1 out of every 12 jobs in Fayette County.

The policy recommendations presented by the Planning Staff focus around three pillars: protection, sustainability, and restoration.   

The vision for protection includes maintaining the Urban Services Boundary, preserving our farmland and greenways, and improving our water quality through implementation of the EPA Consent Decree. The vision for sustainability includes creating a multimodal transportation network and transit-oriented development to reduce vehicle dependence, using green infrastructure for stormwater management, growing our local food industry, and supporting energy efficiency initiatives. The vision for restoration includes strengthening our urban forest, using green infrastructure to bridge gaps in the greenspace network, and promoting community gardens and urban farms.

As we say at Fayette Alliance, it’s not if we grow, it’s how. The recommendations acknowledge that how we grow impacts our environment and quality of life in the most immediate and essential ways. This is a lesson we should have learned.

Our community has suffered the negative, long-term, and expensive environmental consequences of sprawl development and irresponsible growth. For many years, Lexington’s sanitary and stormwater sewer systems were improperly maintained and capacity was added without making necessary improvements. The result—sewer overflows and flooding that cause property damage to homes and neighborhoods, pollute our creeks and streams, and jeopardize our public health, quality of life, and economy.

To settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and State, Lexington entered into a Consent Decree in 2006 to clean up our sewer mess. Twelve years later, we’re making good progress, but still suffer from sewer overflows and flooding. We pay for the poor planning decisions of the past every month in our sewer bills—the Consent Decree is estimated to cost nearly $600 million by 2026.

As we plan for our future land use, it is imperative that our local leaders take the long view and adopt policies that promote smart growth and sustainable development. According to the United Nations, “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The Planning Staff’s policy recommendations take the long view and provide strategies for growing in a sustainable, responsible, and smart way. We applaud the Planning Staff for their hard work and leadership.

View Theme B: Protecting the Environment

The next Comp Plan work sessions are scheduled for May 17th and May 31st. The Planning Staff will present their draft recommendations on Theme C of the 2018 Comp Plan—“Improving a Desirable Community.” The work sessions are open to the public and held in the Phoenix Building (101 E. Vine Street). A draft of all the recommendations will be available for public review and comment in the Fall. Fayette Alliance will not issue an official position statement until after the full draft is available. However, we will continue to provide updates throughout the process. Stay tuned!