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Election 2022 Candidate Questionnaire – Dave Sevigny

Running for: Council District 10Dave Sevigny Election 2022

Does this candidate have a Primary Election on Tuesday, May 17, 2022? No

Question: What brought you to Lexington-Fayette County? What do you love about our community?

I moved to Lexington right out of college in 1985 and never wanted to leave. My wife, Paula, and I lived and raised our 2–now grown–children in district 10. I’m passionate about small business. I launched, ran, and retired from an award winning small business that grew from nothing to over 30 employees during the last 25 years. Now, I continue to mentor and collaborate with other small business leaders and volunteer at several nonprofits in Lexington.

I love Lexington. It is an awesome community with a unique identity. We have distinct urban areas, horse farms, and suburban landscapes within a walk or bike ride from most anyplace in our city. We have a University that draws unique and diverse people, which creates economic opportunity and cultural vibrancy. There are high quality of life amenities-like an arts and entertainment scene-that help us attract and retain talent. But there is always an opportunity to do more, and that is what drives my passion to run for office.

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?

Reasonably priced, diverse housing is sparse. Rents have spiked and the own vs rent equation is really leaning towards owning-if you can find property. Commercial investors have outpaced individual first time buyers for single family real estate since the pandemic began. Low interest rates have driven demand, but a rapid increase in interest rates over the last few months should tend to cool off the market-allowing for more fair competition.

Policy wise, I’m supportive of more creative down-zoning of some properties (like older retail strip centers and parking lots) which reimagined could serve as innovative multi unit housing at reasonable price points. Thoughtfully planned increased housing density can create an opportunity for more inclusiveness to live in our community.

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?

There are several zoning updates that allow for a variety of denser living. R3’s are similar to the old R4’s, R4’s are similar to the old R5’s, and R5’s are pretty infinite. There is some discourse on how these happened, but these changes do enable denser living. The product of these changes could bring more teardowns and rebuilds of more expensive property-which doesn’t positively affect affordability.

The ADU (accessory dwelling units) amendment has also created a new tension. ADU’s, if managed properly, can provide for missing middle housing, aging in place and other flexible housing options. ADU’s are a tenuous issue; some cities have done great with them and others…not so much. LFUCG’s ADU amendment is now in trial mode and I do have concerns that we will have a difficult time maintaining compliance (particularly owner occupation) since LFUCG’s compliance staff is stretched thin. Some cities have incentivized ADU’s to be used specifically for affordable housing.

Other ways of tackling housing diversity include downzoning, parking requirement changes, and land swaps. Downzoning (commercial to residential) can be made possible allowing property like Professional Office to support residential, so as buildings get outdated, the land can be repurposed easier. Parking requirement changes can also accommodate for adaptive reuse of property that have vast parking lots.

Creative land swaps like the UK/LFUCG swap that allows for 200 + acres of commercial development are good examples of the city working with other partners to create win/win situations. It would be interesting to see if there are opportunities for other creative land swaps within and outside the USB-as not all vacant land within the USB is for sale-thus not changing the # of acres within the USB, just replacing it with owners who have interest outside the USB.

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.

The Comprehensive plan seems to be THE document that the city uses to navigate land use in our city. The 2018 version called for a study to be done that would create “triggers” around when the USB might need to be expanded. I’ve read the draft of that study and it appears that it isn’t finished. If we want to use the document to support land use in Fayette County, it needs to be more obvious what those trigger points are. I would hope and push for this study to be completed with solid ideas and recommended solutions. We need more time to vet the infill and redevelopment experiment and finish the study that was supposed to provide the rubric for expansion.

Infill requires greater controls on development, because infill has to fit into the landscape of what is currently developed and needs infrastructure to support it. If neighborhoods and infrastructure struggle with increased density, at some point the pressure might get too great and expansion of the USB would be one possible outcome. There could be some unique properties that could be individual targets for specific purposes and those could be individual cases for expansion, but broad USB expansion over the next 5 years is unlikely. I would support opportunities for other creative land swaps within and outside the USB-as not all vacant land within the USB is for sale-thus not changing the # of acres within the USB, just replacing it with land that is of little farm value but lies outside the USB.

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 in Lexington has become a serious race and class issue. Several groups have studied the issue in Lexington over the last 4 years. In a recent study, there are 10 key geographic areas in Lexington that were identified as hotspots for these displacements. The Commission for Racial Justice and Equity Housing and Gentrification Subcommittee report has several good calls to action.

Poor–predominantly minority neighborhoods–are targets for investors. There is a need to transform code enforcement from nuisance claims to legitimate claims of safety. We should have a strong support system within LFUCG that helps direct resources to people so that they can stay in their properties. I am supportive of opportunity, but it’s difficult for a vulnerable person to withstand the constant barrage of issues that someone with more means might reign down on them.

I also believe that in order to have more affordable housing options, density will need to increase in Lexington, and it needs to be a bit easier for that to happen. Some of these initiatives are now approved through a series of zoning changes and amendments.

I believe we should make equitable investments in all the things in Lexington that make us diverse-so I think funding to support our diverse neighborhoods at risk is as important as funding our diverse greenspace.

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?

Lexington is aided by factors that provide some ingredients for a strong and diverse economy. We are a service provider community for Central, Eastern and Southern KY. We have a strong higher education presence-which helps create a workforce and innovative ideas. And last but not least, good soils create an agribusiness/tourism industry with focus on our unique equine and bourbon assets .

Coldstream’s 200 plus acres provides a reasonable space for expansion and our efforts should be to have that site be shovel ready, by placing the infrastructure (roads, utilities etc) there to speed up development. Some of our ARPA funds are earmarked for that purpose, but there is more to be done. There is frequent discussion about expansion along the I75 and I64 corridors, and I do believe that these are the most likely candidates for expansion if it were to occur as the council considers the next comprehensive plan. I do think that there are sites in Lexington that could be redeveloped, but are considered “dirty” sights-and we should consider incentives on cleaning them up.

A great community with rich and vibrant talent can really help to attract businesses to locate in Lexington. Talent attraction is the problem for every single business I talk to-I see it day. We need to invest in great amenities and infrastructure as parts of our way of life in Lexington. These will attract and keep talent here, and the strong workforce will help attract strong business.

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?

I love Lexington’s greenspace and the very careful way Lexington has protected them with the Urban Service Boundary. It makes us truly unique amongst small cities. The economic impact of 2.3 billion is a part of Lexington’s approximate $16 billion total economic impact. It’s significant. I think that the benefits of agriculture and food systems far outweigh their revenue generation. Food and water are two of the principal ingredients of our hierarchy of needs. To be able to grow food more effectively and efficiently is absolutely essential to our world. I think it would be awesome to be known for agricultural innovation (consider more companies like AppHarvest), if at least in the same amount as we are known for our great bourbon and equine industries.

I believe we are going to have to get pretty innovative to find industries that require less land in order to have a thriving 21st century economy. There needs to be a balance between this type of innovation and finding places in our county that could easily support some industry and/or specific housing that would enhance the character of our community. Payroll taxes provide the bulk of our revenue as a city. Revenue diversification will be needed if we fail to have a large enough labor pool working in Fayette County to support the services we provide, and remain competitive with other cities for attraction of talent and business.

 

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?

One thing I learned in business is to always take a percentage of what I had and invest it in something innovative that could drastically change the future for the better. It might fail, but I’m a true believer that innovation is the key to solving truly difficult problems. I wish there was more of that type of risk taking in the recent disbursement of one time funds-like the ARPA funding. IIJA and BIL funds provide yet another opportunity. BIL funds can help LFUCG improve safety especially for cyclists and pedestrians through the implementation of Complete Streets (interestingly-it is also part of the Reimagine Nicholasville Rd study-a corridor that runs along the border of district 10). The available one time funds seem to be a creative way to make some positive improvements to multimodal methods of transportation with a stronger network of trails and paths to add to our existing blossoming non-car system.

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?

Lexington is still a car community and mass transit is not utilized by many as a primary alternative. An example of visionary thinking, the “Imagine Nicholasville Rd” report from the summer of 2021, although not perfect, did a good job at visioning what a city corridor could look like. Components of the Imagine study included-

1. Complete streets: specific bicycle, walking, vehicle and transit lanes
2. Transit Oriented Developments: a set of transportation and land use principles in which
higher density, mixed-use development is focused around a transit stop in a high
frequency transit corridor
3. Bus Rapid Transit: center lane multidirectional busses with ease of access, raised
platform stations and more rapid transit times then cars (the key word is “rapid”)

While the study might overreach a bit with property that really isn’t in play, it was eye opening and provided vision to how a corridor could develop, meet the vision of the Comprehensive Plan, and provide alternative thinking to transportation and housing. Programs that can improve all modes of transportation in our city–like infrastructure investments from the recently passed BIL mentioned above-to nonprofits like Broke Spoke (empowering adults with the tools, space, skills, and community needed for better access to better bikes) should be leveraged to make some far-reaching visions a reality.