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Election 2022 Candidate Questionnaire – Denise Gray

Running for: Council District 6

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

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

Lexington chose me. I didn’t choose it. I was born and raised on the north side of Lexington. I attended Mary Todd and Northern Elementary schools, Bryan Station Middle school, and Bryan Station High School. It is the place I claim as my home and where I feel most comfortable.

The blessing of growing up in Lexington is that you have the opportunity to remember what it used to be. Such as, I remember playing in the area called the “Bottoms.” This area is no longer in existence due to the construction of Oliver Wendell Road, which sits where the neighborhood once stood. I attended Consolidated Baptist Church on Upper Street and now where it now sits on Russell Cave Road.

No matter how large Lexington becomes or how much it grows, it has that same small-town feel. There’s always someone that knows my parents, played baseball with my brother, served in the military with my sister, attended Bryan Station High School, or saw me cheer when I was younger. I know what Lexington was, what it is, and what it could be.

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?

As Lexington, like most of our nation, deals with the challenges of developing adequate, affordable housing for low-income families and increasing attainable missing middle housing, it is necessary to have a creative thought process. Historically, single-family dwelling zoning was the priority for nefarious reasons. Therefore, it is pertinent to re-evaluate Lexington zoning to determine if areas currently zoned as single-family usage are more viable as higher density or mixed-use zoning. Typically areas would be located near public transportation.

One of the ways is by using accessory dwelling units, which Lexington is currently piloting to see if it will work for our city.

Another option is to see what incentives for high-density dwellings, specifically those with buildings on the bottom and housing above, to-ensure such dwellings are reserved for low-income and middle-income housing.

Another option is to create housing vouchers to be paid directly to developers to build housing, focusing not only on high-density but multi-family dwellings as well.

Policy-wise there are several options for our area. Overall, my general guide is looking to see what other cities with similar populations and projected growth have done to deal with this, ensuring safe and affordable housing is attainable for all in Lexington.

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?

It is vital for any planning for the future of Lexington, especially regarding the Urban Service Boundary–expanding it and the infill redevelopment within the Urban Service Boundary is to do so strategically. We have several areas in our city and county which were constructed without the future in mind.

I don’t have any specific policy recommendations. Still, I have seen the use of incentives in other cities of similar size and makeup, such as tax breaks for particular timeframes, vouchers, and malleable zoning.

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.

My support of any expansion of the Urban Service Area would be contingent upon a plan with the input of all Lexingtonians, city planning, and other experts. Any plan regarding the expansion or any change with the Urban Service Area must be a well thought out, strategic plan that keeps the city’s future in mind, especially regarding natural resources and other environmental issues.

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? 

I’m not confident I’d recommend these policies. Still, I would recommend and partake in conducting research on what cities similar to Lexington–size, the projected growth of populations, etc., to see how those municipalities dealt with the situation. I have previously mentioned re-evaluating zoning practices and other policies. However, I’m sure there are other avenues to tackle this issue.

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?

Generally speaking, one of Lexington-Fayette County’s location is an asset. With the interstate placing Lexington as a possible hub for any company seeking to excel, this is one of our greatest assets. Of course, the University of Kentucky is another one of our assets and the other colleges and universities nearby. These alone ensure that three of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s four pillars of economic policy are met. To help achieve the “fourth pillar,” incentives may be necessary—such as a voucher. This is just one possibility, but for job growth to occur, there must be some incentive for any business to make Lexington its home.

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 believe it is necessary to promote and connect local farms with the community through integrated partnerships. While working with Fayette County Public Schools, it was a joy to see how the school system encouraged our next generation of leaders to engage with our local farms and become more involved with agriculture. Another polices I fully support any policy promoting community gardens and urban agriculture to restore natural resources within the Urban Service Area. The community garden on Third Street is always fruitful. I’d like to see this encouraged in other areas around Lexington. 

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?

I have several recommendations, especially regarding broadband in our city. Still, I will speak about the need to invest in inadequate public transportation and ways to ensure that commuting in Lexington is done with ease. Currently, the public transportation system hub is located in Downtown Lexington. Persons taking LexTran must take their bus downtown and then proceed to their destination. The current plan consists of bus routes in areas in the 6th District ending before the end of work shifts. Unfortunately,  many have been left without adequate transportation because of the current route hours. Routes should be available at timeframes residents need access. Investment in public transit is a need. 

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?

Several cities similar in size to Lexington and even larger cities have practiced different ways to alleviate traffic and transportation costs in their areas.  Several of these policies and approaches are possibilities for use here in Lexington.  For example, Salt Lake City has enacted programs such as “Free Fares in February.” In other areas, bus lanes on high riders corridors and protected bike lanes have been initiated.  Are growing cities have modified their traffic light timing systems.  As Lexington-Fayette County continues, ways to alleviate traffic and transportation costs should continue to be an issue on the minds of elected officials and Lexingtonians.