Election 2022 Candidate Questionnaire – Dan Wu
Running for: Council At-Large
Question: What brought you to Lexington-Fayette County? What do you love about our community?
A job opportunity for my father at the University of Kentucky brought our family here in the late ‘80s. I moved away for about 10 years after college & moved back in 2006 when I started a family and have really taken root here. I love that Lexington is a creative, dynamic, mid-sized city and still a small town at heart when it comes to relationships among its residents. Anyone with passion and drive can help create community and really work to make Lexington a better place.
Question: Like the rest of the nation, Lexington faces critical challenges around developing adequate Affordable housing for low-income families and increasing attainable missing middle housing for the average income resident. What specific policy recommendations do you have to address these different challenges?
We need to take a long hard look at some of our zoning & building codes & guidelines to more streamline the development of the kind of missing middle housing we so desperately need. We need to facilitate conversations, input, & collaboration between developers & affected neighborhoods & communities. Beyond increasing the affordable housing stock, we need to make sure first-time home buyers can be competitive in a market dominated by investors outbidding them with cash offers.
Question: The 2018 Comprehensive Plan, Imagine Lexington, prioritizes infill redevelopment within the Urban Service Boundary as a primary strategy to accommodate our growth needs. How do you propose we incentivize infill and redevelopment to activate the approximately 17,000 acres of vacant, underused and underutilized land (much of which exists on our major commercial corridors) within the Urban Service Area? What specific policy recommendations or incentives do you think we could utilize to ensure we sustainably use our existing resources to meet our needs?
I believe LFUCG needs to work as a facilitator between developers & neighborhoods to come up with collaborative solutions & plans that can be mutually beneficial & get away from the adversarial nature of the current process. Using the Comp Plan as a guide, we need to reassess some of our potential development areas for zoning changes so that it doesn’t have to be done in a piecemeal fashion. We need to increase the Affording Housing Trust Fund so we can help support the creation of more housing for everyone.
Question: The balance between our urban and rural areas is essential to our unique economy, environment, and quality of life in Lexington-Fayette County. Since the last expansion of the Urban Service Boundary in 1996, only 51% of the land brought within the boundary has been developed, and no Affordable housing has been built in those dedicated expansion areas. Do you support an expansion of the Urban Service Area during the current Comprehensive Planning update process? Please explain.
Until we have fully exhausted all creative & bold ideas for smart infill redevelopment and effectively used our existing developable land, expanding the USB is not the ideal solution. Expansion is also no magic bullet as it requires much infrastructural work & cost from the city – everything from sidewalks & sewers to police & fire protection. We have also seen that expansion has not positively impacted our affordable housing crisis.
Question: To grow Lexington-Fayette County sustainably, we must grow equitably and consider impacts on our marginalized and underserved communities. What specific policies would you recommend to incentivize community-driven investments in historically disinvested neighborhoods while preventing displacement which can result from gentrification?
Gentrification & displacement do not have to be inevitable results of redevelopment. We have to start by including impacted communities in discussions about how redevelopment is to be done. We can mitigate displacement by freezing or reducing property taxes for long-time residents in areas being redeveloped. We must ensure code enforcement is directed at slumlords and not at elderly or economically disadvantaged owner/residents who can afford it the least. If we don’t do everything through the lens of racial & economic equity, we will continue to leave Lexingtonians behind as we grow.
Question: What do you see as the pillars of Lexington-Fayette County’s strong and diverse economy? What specific policies do you recommend for: a) activating existing economic development land for jobs, such as the nearly 250 acres at Coldstream; b) creating opportunities for job growth utilizing the significant vacant office and commercial spaces within our urban area, and c) leveraging our unique assets and community strengths to support job growth and continued economic prosperity?
Beyond the larger industries like UK, the medical centers, and the horse & bourbon industries, Lexington has a burgeoning food & drink scene and overall a strong small business community. As a small business owner, I want to see current & future business owners supported so that we can be a magnet for entrepreneurship. When it comes to (re)development, we need more retail & restaurant sectors woven into our residential neighborhoods. Meadowthorpe, Southland, & Chevy Chase are great examples of areas that are more walkable & bikeable, promoting not only more economic activity but also lessening our fuel cost & consumption, commute & drive times, and the impact on the environment.
Question: Fayette County agriculture industries are a significant part of our local economy and cultural identity, having a $2.3 billion dollar annual economic impact, supporting 1 out of every 12 jobs, and anchoring a $2 billion dollar local tourism industry. What specific policies do you support to ensure the continued strength of our agriculture industries and the rural land that supports them?
Through the use of PDRs and other measures, we need to both conserve & develop future agricultural & farm land. As a restaurant industry professional & a food lover, I want to see our diners & consumers more connected with food grown in our own county & region. I would love Lexington’s urban boundary to be ringed with local farms providing our residents with fresh, seasonal food grown by their neighbors.
Question: The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) funds offer Lexington-Fayette County a transformational opportunity to invest in transportation, water, power and energy, environmental remediation, public lands, community resilience and broadband. What specific policy recommendations do you have for approaching quality of life investments and capital improvements to make the most efficient use of these funds in the coming years? What are the top priorities for investment in Lexington-Fayette County?
Lexington needs better public transportation inside the city and regional transportation for the many commuters who live in surrounding counties. We need more & safer bike lanes, more sidewalks, more trees, investment in more sustainable energy sources, less reliance on cars. Most of all, we need to make sure that all these improvements are made with equity in mind, that historically marginalized and ignored communities also reap the benefits of a better Lexington.
Question: According to the Center for Neighborhood Technology, the average Lexingtonian spends 24% of their income on transportation costs and 26% on housing. What specific policies would you propose to incentivize public transportation, bike/pedestrian improvements, and walkable developments near existing infrastructure to help alleviate both traffic and transportation costs in our community?
When public transit becomes more convenient, faster, and less expensive than car-based transportation, more people will make the switch. We have to make substantial investments in public transit to make that happen. For cyclists, we need more protected, safer bike lanes, especially along our major corridors. For pedestrians, we need to start by creating sidewalks in all areas that need them and widening them in areas where they are narrow or too close to motor traffic. When it comes to redevelopment, I would like to see all future projects be rated on a “green scale” to grade its level of sustainability, environmental impact, & balance of concrete to green space and a “walkability scale” to grade its distance & accessibility of residential development to nearby goods & services.