Goal 4 Work Group

The Future of the Urban Service Boundary: Goal 4 Work Group

LFUCG is currently having the most important conversation related to the Urban Service Boundary since its inception in 1958. The efforts of a stakeholder group called the Goal 4 Workgroup will help to inform decisions made by the Planning Commission and the Urban County Council about the Urban Service Boundary and future growth decisions in the 2023 Comprehensive Plan.

On November 7th, the Goal 4 Workgroup released its report, made only over the course of 12 meetings, which includes a map of Fayette County indicating land for permanent preservation, land that is sewerable and has the potential for future development, and a process that can be used by the Planning Commission and the Urban County Council to make long term decisions about growth, the need for, and implementation of (once a need is identified) expansion of the Urban Service Boundary. Public comment on these processes was not permitted throughout the meeting of the group or before the report was finalized, and not until the Council of the Whole meeting which took place on Thursday, November 10th. 


The Goal 4 Workgroup, appointed by Vice Mayor Steve Kay (and led by Kay and Councilmember James Brown) is the second phase of the Sustainable Growth Task Force, which was appointed last year by Mayor Linda Gorton. The Sustainable Growth Task Force identified data points and a data-driven framework for how to evaluate existing conditions in Fayette County related to housing, industrial, commercial and retail development, and whether we can continue to meet our growth needs through infill and redevelopment and at what point we might need additional land outside the USB to do so. 

Both of these working groups were formed to complete the task set out in the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, Imagine Lexington, in Theme E, Goal 4, which reads: 

  • Goal 4: Protect Lexington’s invaluable rural resources and inform long-range planning for infrastructure, community facilities, and economic development through the creation of a new process for determining long-term land use decisions involving the Urban Service Boundary and Rural Activity Centers. 
  • Establish the process via a study, involving diverse stakeholders and constituents, that meets the projected need of the agricultural and development communities, by preserving key agricultural resources from development pressures and identifying land for future urban development. 
  • Ensure the study designates rural land for long-term preservation, identifies land for potential future urban development, and specifies triggers, thresholds, and timing for the addition of the identified urban land into the Urban Service Boundary, keeping infill and land use efficiency as the continued primary objectives. 

What’s in the Report? 

The Preservation Map set forth in the report was created on a foundation of the sewerability areas developed as part of the 1999 Rural Land Management Plan. The map shows there are 182,761 acres in Fayette County, 54,662 acres of those within the existing USB. This Report designates 97,309 acres in the “permanently preserved area”, and designates 27,491 acres “outside the preserved area” or as areas for potential future development based on their ability to be sewered. There is no designation on the map reflecting the cost or feasibility of sewering land for potential development – which was key in the 1999 Plan.

The remainder of the report is an outline of ways in which the Planning Commission and Urban County Council could evaluate when there is a need to modify the Urban Service Area (which process incorporates the work of the Sustainable Growth Task Force).  After a review of the data involved, if a decision is made to initiate a conversation to consider expanding the Urban Service Boundary, the Report outlines a proposal process, similar to a call for private development proposals, within the future development area that would meet the need identified in the prior step. 

Pursuant to the Report outline, developers would have to show the proposed development is: fiscally sustainable, equitable, environmentally focused, multi-modal, agriculturally supportive, and economically forward; a public engagement process with surrounding stakeholders, infrastructure/community facility planning, and more, in order to be approved in the Urban Service Area. The proposal would go through the public hearing process similar to a zone change under the current ordinance.  

Where does Fayette Alliance Stand on the Report? 

It is critical to ensure that Lexington-Fayette County maintains a data-driven approach to future growth decisionsFayette Alliance has been supportive of the intent of these continued efforts and has maintained since the beginning of this process that it must be a thoughtful, objective, data-driven, and timely discussion that could balance the preservation of our unique and productive farmland and our needs for continued growth in the community. It is also critical, however, that the community has a strong voice in these efforts, and that any future growth process discussions are informed by the most up-to-date information possible, with input from all necessary stakeholders. That has not been the case with this effort to date. 

We appreciate the efforts of Vice Mayor Kay and Councilmember Brown in leading this group, and the stakeholders who were a part of the process. The group met 12 times, and difficult discussions and hard work resulted in the Report that was released on November 7th. 

While we followed along over the course of the 12 meetings and believe there are sound elements of the Report, this process will have impacts on Fayette County for decades into the future. Additional research, evaluation, analysis, and input are necessary before the Report continues to move forward. Ensuring this work is thoughtful, and not rushed, has been our main objective. Ultimately, the Report was finalized without adequate time and evaluation by neither the group members as to major changes made in the last week of the Group meetings, nor the Councilmembers who were asked to vote on a non-binding resolution endorsing the Report at the Work Session on Tuesday, November 15th. 

The following are the concerns of Fayette Alliance as it relates to the report and recommendations for further evaluation by the Planning Commission as this process moves forward: 

  • Re-evaluation of land included in the potentially developable area pursuant to an evaluation of impacts on conserved land under easement in the Rural Service Area (RSA) and an updated sewerability study designating the cost and feasibility of infrastructure throughout the RSA
  • Inclusion of the Rural Land Management Board in evaluation and decision-making throughout the process 
  • More efficient planning for infrastructure investments, the timeline of infrastructure, and community facility planning to ensure physical and fiscal responsibility   
  • Preventing scattered site development and inefficient infrastructure development by re-evaluation of the private proposal process 
  • Need for an update to the Rural Land Management Plan to better understand existing conditions in the RSA and how those are impacted by/will impact future growth and development to inform the Goal 4 Report and implementation 
  • Further evaluation of appropriate/compatible uses for Area C pursuant to soil quality and its status as an economic engine of the agricultural community

What’s the Status of the Report and What’s Next? 

The Report was presented to the Council in a Special Council of the Whole meeting on Thursday, Nov. 10th. At the Council Meeting on Thursday, November 17th, a Resolution was read stating that the Urban County Council “acknowledges receipt” of the Goal 4 Report – not endorsing or approving the Report – and that the Report will move forward with public input to the Planning Commission. The second reading of this Resolution will be made and public comment available at the Council Meeting on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 6pm.

Council also passed a motion to allocate $400,000 from the Water Quality budget for an updated Sewerability study of the Rural Service Area, as the last one was completed in 1999. This study will examine the feasibility and cost of sewer infrastructure in the RSA and it will have an important impact on the information and process set forth in the Report moving forward. This step is critical before any map is included in the updated evaluation process or this draft Report continues to move forward. 

Next Steps

The Report has been forwarded to the Planning Commission for additional review, public input, and recommendations. The first presentation to the Planning Commission will be made on Thursday, December 8th (more details to come on time/location). Planning Commission will ultimately make a recommendation to the Urban County Council, which will hold an additional forum for public comment before final approval.

As this Report moves through the above processes, please check back for updates and advocacy efforts. These discussions and opportunities for public input will shape our approach to growth in Fayette County for decades to come, your voice will be critical to ensure we continue to balance our vibrant city and our productive Bluegrass farmland.

BGT Magazine – History of RLMP and PDR – Nov 22

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