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Election 2022 Candidate Questionnaire – Jennifer Reynolds

Running for: Council District 12

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

I grew up in Central Kentucky, spending time in Lexington daily, and started my adult career in Lexington 21 years ago. After going to school, I traveled extensively and lived in Mexico for 4 years. When I was trying to decide where to settle after coming back to the States 10 years ago, I knew I wanted to come back home and invest in a place I love so much. Lexington is the perfect combination of a small town community with the offerings of food and entertainment of a larger city. I love this city and have been serving it since I moved back all those years ago. I am close to family and have built a community of friends here over the years. The horse farms and agriculture industry along with our great healthcare make this place unique. Lexington is a fabulous city and one of my favorite things about it is how many people who work in government, own a business, and live here genuinely care about making it a better place. My commute is short, there are wonderful parks all over town, and there is always something interesting to do every night of the week!

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 have a housing shortage in Lexington like many other places in the country. In order to build affordable housing, developers need to have access to incentives that will aid them in building the housing that we so badly require for our community. I think we ought to continue to fund our Affordable Housing Fund at a higher rate than years past as we did this year with an additional $10,000 of American Rescue Plan money. In addition, we should look at policies to make it possible for those with Section 8 vouchers to rent in more places. Mixed use and more creative zoning laws will help us utilize the land we have available. As we look toward the future, we must be realistic about the housing we have at our disposal for development. The only way we will improve our lack of housing is to be able to build more housing of every kind in the city, including housing that is not specifically “affordable housing,” but is not far above market rate. We will need a compromise with our residents to educate them and help them understand that in order to provide housing we will need density and infill, which is not always popular. This is the big challenge moving forward 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?

I think a lot more could be done to ensure that our growth plan encourages and aids development. As we try to infill it is important that while we want to have a good plan in place for infill, it is not overly cumbersome for those able to develop inside the boundary so that we are not discouraging development through tough demands on them. I believe that if we really want housing, then we should take a closer look at the possibility of more tax incentives for those building housing. While our Comprehensive Plan has prioritized infill and redevelopment, there has not been substantial enough growth in those areas. There is a disconnect between the city’s Comp Plan and how it plays out in our neighborhoods. I think following small area plans and other plans that we have paid for as a city is important to helping neighborhoods understand and exist alongside new developments.

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.

Since I have been on council, my understanding of what is happening in the city in regards to development has changed somewhat. First, if we want areas to be developed and redeveloped, we need to provide the infrastructure and atmosphere for developers to be able to do so. At the same time, we cannot force anyone to develop their land. The city has decided to maintain the Urban Service Boundary and put a lot of guidelines in place about how to infill. However, if you talk to average residents in Lexington, they might say that they also want to maintain the boundary, but they do not want an affordable housing development in their neighborhood, or those townhouses, or that shopping center, or that road opened, etc. We have guidelines for development, but many of our residents have no idea what the Comp Plan is or how it affects their lives. We need to be doing a much better job as a city of explaining what infill and redevelopment means. I have seen that many neighborhoods are upset about the infill and often want to block it. So we have a plan that we are not able to put in place. There is a big disconnect here. If our constituents are blocking development inside the boundary and really do not want it in practice, then I have a dilemma: Do we continue to support the Urban Service Boundary or expand it? I think we should look past the notion that we either fully maintain the boundary or get rid of it completely and instead look at creative ideas for addressing growth that take a more hybrid approach.

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? 

One thing we can do is take action when homeowners are being preyed upon in low-income areas especially with excessive reporting to Code Enforcement. At times, people try to kick homeowners out in order to buy their house at a low price and flip it, selling it for 2-4 times more than they paid for it. If we are getting a lot of calls about one house in a neighborhood, we need to pay attention to what is happening and try to help those in need fix their houses instead of accumulating fines they cannot afford. The city now has some funds in place to help those who have been cited by Code Enforcement. House flipping with excessive prices on housing is horrible for underserved communities, and we should look at a way to deal with this.

We also had a Neighborhoods in Transition Task Force that did a lot of work around this issue and made recommendations that I believe the city should follow. I think our new department of Housing and Community Development will be a good avenue through which our local government can address housing inequities.

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?

I see Lexington as having a variety of strengths when it comes to our diverse economy, which include agriculture and the horse industry, healthcare, high tech, education, and hospitality. The partnership between UK, the Fayette Urban County Government, and Commerce Lexington at Coldstream is something impressive that has brought and will bring many valuable jobs to Lexington. I think it was important that the Urban County Council voted to give much-needed infrastructure to Coldstream, and I know the city will continue to partner to bring businesses there. The city has done a lot to encourage economic development, and working together we could identify the vacant spaces in Lexington to partner businesses with underutilized or unused spaces within the Urban Service Boundary. In order to use the land we have available we need to work on intentional partnerships between landowners and businesses in need of space. I think Lexington has done a good job over the past several years of leveraging our uniqueness and growing in such a way as to encourage economic development. I am excited to have the new City Bank Center Convention Center, among other things, in the 11th District. The Center is boosting the local economy with a larger capacity for conventions, bringing more jobs and visitors to Lexington. In addition, I think we should support our local small business owners who add a lot of richness to our city and create jobs and stimulate our economy.

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 support the PDR program and think that it has served to support our agriculture industry since its inception. In addition, I support smart growth, which takes into consideration the impact our city’s growth has on our agriculture businesses. Lexington should continue to value the things that make it unique and bring money into the city for everyone.

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?

My understanding is that many of these funds will not be able to be controlled locally and will be distributed mostly through grants. That being said, I believe that we should continue with the city’s project to make an infrastructure plan to prioritize all of the city’s main infrastructure projects. I think there are several major road and corridor projects in Lexington that have been waiting to be finished for many years and concern our residents daily. In addition, I think that Lexington needs to prioritize sidewalk connections and building sidewalks on main roads where there are none. Currently, no fund exists in the city dedicated to pedestrian safety and sidewalks. I would be interested to hear what types of projects our residents would prioritize in spending these federal funds.

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?

Over my past four years on City Council, two of the biggest issues my office has heard about are speeding and sidewalks. Our residents want their neighborhoods to be a safe place in which to drive, walk, and bike. I have spent money that was designated to my district for infrastructure to help with crosswalks, speed-calming measures, and speed feedback signs. I have been working with Lextran to improve bus stops in the District and also with them on their new routes. I believe we should increase our partnership with them and look at ways to expand ridership. One of my top priorities is improving our main corridors, and I have been doing that with securing funds to continue the Versailles Rd Improvement Project. I think it is important that the city prioritize money for infrastructure projects and sidewalks. Over the past few years, along with several colleagues, I have been advocating for and working on a Complete Streets type policy for the city. We need to invest in safety for every resident and provide the amenities they desire.