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Election 2022 Candidate Questionnaire – Kathy Plomin

Running for: District 12Kathy Plomin Election 2022

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

I attended the University of Kentucky where I met my husband and we ended up staying in Lexington after graduation. I love Lexington as it is such a unique community with a urban and a rural blend that is recognized world-wide. It has grown since my college years but it still maintains a smaller town atmosphere. It is home to the University of Kentucky as well as Keeneland and the many beautiful horse farms throughout the county. Lexington is a friendly city that provides all the amenities that one looks for in a city from the arts, great restaurants vibrant downtown and many recreational activities. I would not want to live anywhere else

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?

Office space availability in Lexington has a close to 20% vacancy rate. Obviously with Covid, most workers throughout the country had to work from home rather than in their offices. And many businesses realized that their employees worked well in their own home environments. So as leases are up for renewals, there is a growing trend not to renew. With so many empty office buildings there is an opportunity to reconsider their uses. And since many of these buildings are downtown or in close proximity, affordable housing should be a consideration Many are on bus lines and are close to health and human services. Affordable housing support was a top priority in ARPA considerations and funding has been earmarked for perhaps vacant office buildings. In reference to middle housing costs, I am not sure it can “resolved” on the short term. Home interest rates are now 5%, building materials delayed and costs increased, labor shortage, inflation, and other factors will slow things down as to demand. However as stated above the large number of available office buildings could be creatively addressed for future condominiums and apartments for middle income residents

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 less expensive to sprawl than to provide infill and redevelopment within our city. That is why land still sits that is underutilized or vacant within the urban service boundary. It is not a developer’s first choice due to small scattered nature of infill parcels, complex title issues, outdated infrastructure and environmental contamination. So how and if these barriers can be addressed there could be more interest and activity in infill and redevelopment. Some of the incentives could include upgrading infrastructure and amenities such as parks and streetscapes. These upgrades can make a target area more attractive. Lower impact fees would motivate interest. Consideration could be given to a more fast track and streamlined permitting allowing a concurrent reviewing and process. Some cities provide a “one stop” center for processing applications and assignment of a point person to navigate the project. Some cities reduce sizes, set backs and parking requirements. More zoning for mixed use developments could assist as well as increase density allowances.

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.

I believe growth will be inevitable at some point. However we need to be smart about any growth considerations. I am in my sixth year representing the 12th District and any growth outside the urban service boundary would be in my District. So I am very protective of the boundary. With that said, we need to identify potential growth areas that might exist outside the USB. It would be a proactive move and and would be beneficial in moving forward in growth conversations. It is important to note the PDR (property development rights) program now encompasses 33,000 acres in the rural area. These protected farms throughout the county already provides a visual blueprint of areas that might be considered at a given point.

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? 

Like most cites in the country our city has a challenge with gentrification practices. Displacement occurs as the result of homeowners in a marginalized neighborhood not being able to afford the increasing property taxes that have occurred due to new property acquisitions that replace or improve nearby property. Thus property values increase and property taxes increase proportionately. One idea that could alleviate this displacement is the freezing of long time residents’ property taxes. The city could identify neglected neighborhood tracts and those targeted neighborhood residents (that have owned their property at least ten years) receive a freeze on their property taxes for perhaps 20-25 years.

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?

The pillars of Lexington -Fayette County’s economy include Agriculture, Higher Education, Healthcare and Equine. As I mention in another response attracting agri-tech businesses to our city will stimulate our economy and job growth. The Coldstream acreage and the UK land recently acquired is an opportunity for new business and new jobs. I do not believe the use of the land is best suited for ” a factory” with a large footprint. I would rather see a composit of businesses with smaller footprints that bring in higher paying jobs. Yes, office space is an opportunity for not just housing purposes but to expand existing business and provide space for new businesses that want space within our city. We need to be proactive in repurposing these buildings and must create a strategy to address this opportunity sooner than later.

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?

PDR has done a great job of preserving 33,000 acres in the rural land and many are working farms and horse farms with notable economic impact.The program’s goal is 50,000 acres so as PDR moves closer to this milestone these “economic engines”will continue to prosper.

I believe there is great potential for agri-tech companies in Lexington. We are a strong agricultural market with many resources that can be tapped for recruitment of agri-tech companies and start-ups This includes the University of Kentucky and its noted Agricultural College, Alltech, a world renowned corporation recognized for it’s agricultural related products and research, two of the world leading equine veterinarian hospitals and clinics, world famous horse farms and Kentucky Horse Park with it’s numerous equine trade associations that have their national offices located at the park. A central coordinating organization for recruitment of Ag-tech businesses has been formed and is now city funded. Agri-tech companies have the benefit of using much smaller footprints and salaries are higher which would benefit our payroll revenue. This should be aggressively pursued.

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 top priority for Federal infrastructure investment in Lexington -Fayette County is overwhelmingly broadband. The 12th District encompasses all the rural land in the county and there is a dire need for broadband. By far the number one issue that our office deals with is the lack of connectivity in the rural area. This was most more evident during the Covid Pandemic. As employees worked remotely from home the need for connectivity was critical. In addition school children were home trying to be in class via the internet. The pandemic clearly exemplified the life difference of the” haves and have nots” in regard to broadband. It today’s world it is not feasible to exist with out broadband connectivity. The infrastructure investment is late in the game but at least it will be addressed.

Overall the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act means historic investment that will modernize our roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports, airports, broadband, and drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. This legislation does not raise taxes on everyday Americans, and it will create good-paying jobs.

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?

We have made much headway with bike/pedestrian improvements with miles of connected trails being added each year. And there are many more in the pipeline. Also as a result of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, walkable developments are increasing and is a priority in the planning process for new developments. Public transportation remains a challenge. Unfortunately there is a stigma attached to using buses for transportation in Lexington. And everyone wants to drive their own vehicle. This needs to change in light of the environmental impact in future years. “Imagine Nicholasville Road” addresses transportation options for our most congested road in our city. It includes express lanes and smaller “buses” among many ideas brought forward. The success that the plan may have could serve as a template for other heavily traveled roads and transportation options