Election 2022 Candidate Questionnaire – Josh McCurn
Running for: Council District 2
Question: What brought you to Lexington-Fayette County? What do you love about our community?
Lexington is a beautiful city that has a blend of diverse cultures and backgrounds but also has a feel for urban and rural life. Lexington has opportunities to offer for college students to raising a family or retiring, this is a place to call home. I found Lexington to be home, falling in love with the community that creates a rich, diverse background, in a city that continues to conquer adverse challenges.
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 focuses on infill and development, I have supported seeing the responsible growth transitions throughout the city. My focus has been to see access into our neighborhoods that does not require a vehicle but more opportunities from walkability, bike trails, and public transit. In 2021, I helped pass the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance that allows for additional space for someone to age in place, have a home for their youth, and more. I continue to be diligent seeing opportunities in all of our neighborhoods, providing food access, safe and easy access into communities, and businesses that are local. I have focused my efforts on seeing that Lexington is the place that offers affordable housing options to our college graduates to retirees.
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?
Smart growth is a continued phrase that has been said for several years, but how do we grow is the focus. With vacant parking lots, to underserved lot space, I have worked to see the needs of the community met by transitioning some of these areas into development. The council passed an incentive to developers for FY23 that allows for funds to be given to a development project that focuses on infill and development. I have been instrumental in seeking funding for affordable housing projects and facilitating community input/needs are included and seeing sidewalks/trails. This focuses on connecting our neighborhoods and businesses together, beautifying and cleaning the areas for safe pedestrian access. Additionally, removing some zoning constraints that make infill projects difficult to accomplish. When we focus on infill and development, we need to ensure we are working to accurately reflect on the needs of the project and it’s impacts.
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.
During my time on council, I have supported the transitions of vacant land and underutilized parcels to fulfilling the goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan, and I am for focusing on these goals. Lexington has had a growing need for affordable housing, especially senior affordable housing. As this need continues, providing more incentives to development projects in growing daily. I continue to focus on Lexington being an easier city to work through the planning process and continue to work with developers to see the growing needs of our communities reflected in the future growth in Lexington.
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?
In addition to some incentives aforementioned, seeing our community resources and non-profits thrive is key. I am in support of seeing our resources imbedded into communities, focusing on what I can do to help them succeed, but also creating awareness of what we have in our backyard. Affordable Housing is something I’m extremely passionate about, seeing that someone was born and raised here isn’t forced out of their home due to rising rates. As business comes into the community, it is vital to work with neighbors to meet their needs and that access to these businesses is not solely focused around a vehicle. In my time on Council, I have worked to see multiple affordable housing projects come to the district and in these efforts found ways to playgrounds, business, walking trails, public transit access points, and connected them with neighbors before the development began.
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?
As the Councilmember that represents the 250 acre, Coldstream Legacy Business Park, I have worked to see that this site be inclusive of the surrounding neighborhood and community needs, while bringing well-paying jobs to Lexington. Throughout the past several years, I have worked closely with our Chief Development Officer and Commerce Lexington to identify potential site opportunities, ZOTA changes necessary for infill projects, and supported helping small businesses through the crisis of the pandemic we experienced. With our focus on infill and development, vacant commercial space is crucial to be utilized to grow or establish new businesses. Throughout my time on Council, I have worked with neighborhoods and developers to see land utilized to meet the needs of our community. Working to see more businesses, restaurants, retail, and more because the need has grown for these amenities.
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?
The agriculture industry is crucial to not only Fayette County but the entire state. This industry brings jobs to Lexington and harvests what Lexington is founded upon. In the FY23 budget cycle, I served as the chair of the Planning and Public Safety Budget Link. The PDR program came out of our link with a recommendation to be fully funded, focusing on seeing the goal of 50,000 acres under this program. Additionally, I have pursued a recommendation and interest in serving on the Rural Land Management Board to be a liaison representing Lexington’s council and identifying needs and concerns through both channels.
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?
After this bill passed, I put together a list to identify several priorities of mine that fall under these parameters. Investing into public, mass transit is a pathway looking at not only our near future but the 50-100 year plan of Lexington. We are a city that thrives on seeing progress, with a mass transit system in place, we could partner with our surrounding counties to see quick, safe, and easy access to more jobs, homes, and less traffic. Additionally, I requested we apply for additional support to see broadband expansion throughout our rural community. The Council passed funding support for broadband expansion and the city has partnered with some of our local franchises to seek their investment in growing broadband availability, as well. Another item I am passionate about seeing is how we handle the future of our waste management, working to see a cleaner, more economical, and environmentally friendly options.
While my priority list is vast and well past the word count, I wish to see these funds go towards making Lexington a safer city for all and focusing on equitable solutions for all of Fayette County.
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?
I am a proud advocate for more bike/walking trails and connections to our neighborhoods. These connections do not only offer a safer, easier, connection to other areas of town, but they allow for neighborhoods to be connected to one another. As the Councilmember for my district, I have focused on expanding walking/bike trails throughout the entire district, successfully connecting the Town Branch Trail to the Legacy Trail. Currently, with funding in place, we are working to complete the full circuit loop connecting at the Town Branch Commons.
Public transportation is another passion of mine, working closely with LexTran, we have focused on cleaning up bus stops, hosting community input sessions for ideas, easier access to bus stops or adding them in neighborhoods, and expanding on their comprehensive plan for future growth. Seeing an easier, quicker, option to access public transit is key to future ridership.
Looking at the future of Lexington, I have put mass transit into the Planning and Public Safety Committee to explore future options inside Lexington and partnering with our surrounding counties/cities.