District 9 Candidate Victoria Fath
District 9 Candidate Victoria Fath: Election Questionnaire Responses
What is the biggest challenge and opportunity facing your district and the city of Lexington as a whole?
The biggest challenge facing District 9 as well as the city as a whole is the struggle between spending tax dollars on economic development projects versus spending money on basic city and social services programs. The heart of the Rupp/Convention Center debate is how much are we willing to spend on a project that is meant to advance the city, create jobs and bring in tourism revenue? People with other interests such as lobbyists for better affordable housing options argue they aren’t getting the money they need and why would we spend a large amount of money on an entertainment venue and not toward the needs to battle poverty. This relates to my district also because I have many constituents complain of things like unrepaired roads and a complete neglect of their roads during the winter. They would like to see more money used toward services they expect from their city government.
Land use planning and economic development go hand-in-hand. What are the main economic pillars in Lexington, and what planning policies support their growth?
Lexington is very unique because its undeveloped land is really some of its most valuable asset. Our horse farms and agriculture create a landscape unlike any other city in America and really drives our tourism industry. We must continue to protect this land from development because once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. As far as land use downtown and in the suburbs, we need to do the opposite and relax zoning and land use planning and make it easier for businesses to build or redevelop properties to suit their needs within reason. We have such strictly zoned property here in Lexington and it is divided into too many specific categories as to what can be used there. It’s very difficult to find spaces or locations for some businesses in desirable areas due to these strict laws.
Lexington has a lot of infill redevelopment potential. Promoting well-designed projects is important to creating real estate value throughout the community. Do you support the Design Excellence program and related development incentives to accomplish this goal? Please explain.
The Design Excellence program by all means seems like a great option for any city to take when it needs to build or renovate government owned structures. I completely agree with its subjective stance that architecture, aesthetics, and creativity of our cityscape are important to our vitality.
With over 1500 acres of vacant economic development land inside the city, what initiatives will you support to make it “shovel ready” for recruiting companies and jobs to Lexington?
While 1500 acres sounds like a lot of unused land, we are actually at a historic low for unused land within the Urban Services Boundary. However, initiatives I would support to recruit companies to build are relaxed zoning laws, putting pressure on Frankfort to reform our tax codes to make us competitive with surrounding states, and ensuring the proper infrastructure (i.e. roads, traffic lights, sanitation, and accessibility) is in place near the site or is projected to be.
Fayette County agriculture is an annual $2.4 billion industry that supports one in nine jobs in Lexington. Fayette County farmland is the factory-floor of this industry, which needs conservation and promotion. Will you support a full, $2 million annual allocation for the Purchase of Development Rights program while in office? Please explain.
I do support the Purchase Development Rights Program because it is important that we preserve our invaluable farmland. I can not say whether or not I would support an annual $2 million allocation for the program because I do not know the average sale price and how many property’s development rights can be purchased with that amount. I don’t see a huge rush to purchase multiple property rights at the moment when so many have already been sold. I don’t see our growth being rapid enough for the urgency. I would always be willing to review allocations toward the program though.
How do you propose to address the “town-gown” tensions between the University of Kentucky and the city of Lexington?
My personal opinion is that the town-gown tensions really are not as bad as they have been blown up to be from the recent Rupp tensions. The city knows how valuable UK is to our growth and vitality. UK (should) know that because so much of their funds come from tax payers dollars that they should be cooperative with the city and state government.
Tourism is one of Kentucky’s largest industries. How should Lexington responsibly leverage its rural assets to promote cultural tourism and economic development in the Bluegrass?
I always say, whenever I have visitors from out of state visit me here in Lexington they are far more impressed with our farm land, horse industry, and bourbon industry than anything else. I think we need more organized tours and attractions, like the Bourbon Trail, to allow people up close experiences. We could organize a “town and country” vacation where you tour horse farms or Distilleries during the day and then enjoy our downtown in the evening. We can coordinate locally owned restaurants to be involved as well. Even something like helicopter rides over the Bluegrass would be fun. I think we should invest in a national campaign and advertise ourselves as an interesting place to visit. I’m very passionate about boosting our tourism industry and would be dedicated to making some of these ideas reality.
LFUCG recently set aside $3million for the creation of an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to address the pressing shortage of affordable housing in Lexington. The administration of the program is the main issue moving forward. Do you support the use of rental vouchers, gap financing for qualified projects, or a combination of both to achieve affordable housing in Lexington? Do you support a dedicated funding source for the program? Please explain.
I support rental vouchers as a way to use the $3 million allocated for affordable housing. Providing low-income citizens with supplemental income for rent at various rental locations will offer two benefits to the city while helping keep citizens housed. First, the city will not have to build, manage, and pay for Section 8/ low-income housing units. Second, low-income citizens will not be isolated in one area of town when statistics show more crime is likely to occur in densely populated low-income areas. This should also offer citizens flexibility where they live offering desirable locations like living close to work or in good school districts.
Recently, Lexington agreed to a $600 million EPA Consent Decree to repair its compromised sanitary sewer and stormwater systems. What is the biggest challenge facing Lexington in achieving sound water quality conditions?
Paying for the $600 million EPA consent will be the biggest challenge. The city council has pushed this aside for some time now and it is not properly discussed. We need to get proactive to solve this and how we will budget for it. I’m not a sanitation expert but I imagine it will take extensive research and studies to see how we can best fix the problem.
Access to fresh, affordable food is a critical issue facing not only Lexington, but the United States. By 2030, China alone will demand more food than is produced in the entire world today. What programs are needed to grow Lexington’s emerging local food economy?
Increasing local food programs is essential to our sustainability. This is one reason why I am passionate about preserving our farmlands. There are really great programs in Lexington like Seed Leaf and the Farmer’s Market that are growing food and working to get that food onto the tables of people nearby. Seed Leaf has over a dozen active plots, many donated by LFUCG, for growing food around Lexington with many volunteers tending to them. Even with this financial help they still struggle with being able to competitively sell their food and not go broke. It’s very difficult to compete with mega stores like Wal Mart and Kroger. We need to get these stores on board to buy produce from local farms instead of foreign countries. The prices might rise slightly in stores but I guarantee people will be glad to see “Kentucky Proud” above the vegetables their buying.
Do you support local option sales tax? Please explain. If so, what potential projects could such a tax support in the future?
If we can adequately inform the public about what the tax will be used for and they vote whether they want it or not, then yes I am for it. It’s this kind of tax that I believe is suitable for economic development projects. If we say here’s what we are taxing and specify it’s going to be used for a new convention center (for example) then that is acceptable. We need to operate the city more like a regular family’s budget. We have to save money up to purchase big-ticket items like a house renovation or in the city’s case, a new Rupp Arena or Convention Center.
Balancing growth and preservation is essential to our unique economy, environment, and quality of life in Lexington. Do you support an expansion of the Urban Services Area during the next Comprehensive Plan process, beginning in 2016? What role should regionalism play in our growth strategies moving forward?
Any expansion of the Urban Services Area needs to be judiciously considered so that we can prevent unnecessary sprawl and continue to promote green space and the rural landscapes that give Fayette County its charm and tourist appeal. Prior to any expansion of it however, I think we should require in-fill development first, as long as we are inclusive to all parties in the discussion (developers, land owners, and city representatives). Why deplete beautiful farm land when sufficient space exists in already developed areas? While I understand it may be more cost effective to develop on virgin land versus re-developing existing spaces, the benefits far outweigh the costs. And perhaps incentives could be given to developers willing to bear the higher cost of in-filling. I think regionalism should play a vital role in our growth strategies moving forward. The Bluegrass region is unique. There is no other area in the world with our combination of beautiful rural landscapes, Thoroughbreds, art, history, cleanliness, charm, and gracious hospitality. Lexington’s warmth of spirit is why so many people live here their whole lives, and why so many people from other places stay here after college. We should embrace our proud region’s heritage and protect it at all costs.