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Jake Gibbs- 2018 Candidate Questionnaire

Running for: Urban County Council- District 3

Short Bio:

I grew up in Troy, NY. Graduate school brought me to UK in 1978, where I earned advanced degrees in History and Library Science. I’ve lived near downtown since arriving in Lexington. My professional life was spent at BCTC as a professor of History.
I also taught Logic. In May of 2018, I retired after 30 years of teaching. I have wide-ranging interests including urban studies. I also have a business background. From 1987 until 1999 I was an owner of Alfalfa Restaurant
I met the love of my life, Anita Courtney, shortly after moving to Lexington. We live in the Bell Court neighborhood where we raised two daughters, Delia and Delaney, both now accomplished woman in their 20’s.
Before winning my seat on Council in 2014, I had a long history of civic involvement, including serving on the Board of Directors of Syncopated, Inc dance company for many years. I’ve been president of the Bell Court Neighborhood Association and the Lexington Friends of the Library.
In my work on Council, I’ve focused on serving the downtown neighborhoods, especially through advocacy for biking and walking. I’m also a strong proponent of environmentalism. I’ve worked for a stronger Urban Forestry Program for LFUCG, and helped found Trees Lexington! a 501(c)(3) devoted to improving the tree canopy. I am currently president of the Board of Directors. Environmentalism is one of the key reasons I’ve fought against expansion of the Urban Service Boundary

1. Do you support prioritizing infill/redevelopment as Lexington’s primary growth strategy? Under what circumstances would you support expansion of the Urban Services Boundary or Rural Activity Centers?

I serve on the LFUCG Infill/Redevelopment Committee and I absolutely support its goals. It will be very hard for me to support any expansion. I may support a bit of expansion in areas can be demonstrated to be non-essential to our rural economy. If I did support that, it would be one-time and never again.

2. What specific recommendations do you have to protect the character and context of existing neighborhoods while diversifying our housing stock to meet the needs of our community?

That’s a tough one. I am a strong proponent of infill. I support the Comprehensive Plan’s advocacy for density and variety in housing choices. However, we must be careful to protect existing older neighborhoods. It is a difficult balance to achieve. We must be especially careful to preserve our H-1 areas but expect a certain amount of “building-up” near them, if we are to hold the line on sprawl. More neighborhoods should consider ND-1 overlays to protect their integrity. Those overlays are less stringent than H-1 and are tailored by the neighborhood to fit their needs.

3. What specific recommendations do you have to address Lexington’s affordable housing issue?

While we’ve made great strides in creating affordable housing since the inception of the Affordable Housing Fund in 2014 (over 1,200 units), the $2 million a year that goes into it is not enough to keep pace with our affordable housing needs. I support increasing the fund significantly.
I am on the Board of Directors of the Lexington Community Land Trust. That nonprofit has built many affordable homes in the Davis View neighborhood along the Newtown Pike Extension (Oliver Lewis Way). Private support of the Community Land Trust would help it expand its excellent work into other areas of the city.

4. The number of households headed by someone aged 65 or older is projected to increase significantly over the next decade and beyond. What specific recommendations do you have to meet the needs of our growing senior population?

I head one of those households. I am a 65-year-old retired professor.
LFUCG’s recently completed senior center is an excellent facility and has enhanced life for many people. So, we are making strides. However, there is still much room for improvement. We need to make the city more walkable so older people can rely less on cars. We need to improve our bus system.
There is a dearth of homes that occupy a single floor. We should encourage the building of condos and rental units on one floor in areas of the city walkable for shopping. A preponderance of these should be affordable to retired middle class folks.
We should also explore allowing Accessory Dwelling Units. These can be a boon to those who would like to age in place. However, any ordinance allowing them must be very carefully crafted to prevent abuses.

5. Do you support an annual funding allocation for Lexington’s Purchase of Development Rights Program (PDR)? Please list your specific ideas to support the continued strength and growth of our agricultural and tourism industries. 

I absolutely support PDR. And, as noted above I support holding the line on the Urban Service Boundary. Anything else on this topic is beyond my expertise. I’ve lived in cities my whole life. The district I represent is the only district that doesn’t even touch New Circle Rd. I’ll save you the blathering of the uninformed. Suffice to say I understand the importance of our rural economy to Lexington and will do my best to support it.

6. Citizens have noted frustration with traffic congestion. What are your specific ideas to address traffic congestion? 

Drive less.
If people walked and biked more there would be less congestion, and the attendant pollution, Walking and biking are healthy activities. I walk nearly everywhere, but I live close to downtown and I am inordinately committed to walking. I expect few people to go as far as I do. But we can make walking and biking more attractive by making those activities safer. I’ve devoted much effort on Council to installing crosswalks and bike lanes. Speed limits have been lowered in much of the city, in part to make walking and biking safer and more pleasant. I authored an ordinance which requires property owners along significant roads to shovel snow off their sidewalks. The ordinance is intended to make walking safer.
One of the benefits of holding the line on development is that it will create greater population density. With that will come grocery stores, drug stores and other businesses in walkable areas dense enough to support them. Enhancing our bus system will also cut down on traffic. Increased density should lead to greater ridership, which can lead to greater frequency of busses on routes, which leads to greater ridership.

7. The 2018 Comprehensive Plan for Lexington includes a goal to create “a new process for determining long-term land use decisions” involving the Urban Services Boundary and Rural Activity Centers. If you support the creation of this new process, what are some of the elements that should be included? 

I’m wary of the new process and will scrutinize it very carefully. The process will allegedly include “triggers” for expansion and we must be very careful about loading that gun. Population gain, by itself, should not trigger anything. As noted above, I am opposed to expansion. But if the process identifies small areas that have no better use than housing, especially on land that is not desirable for farming, I will be open-minded.

8. What is the biggest challenge facing your district? What are your specific recommendations to address that challenge?

My district, the 3rd, is the most urban district. It includes most of downtown and all of the UK Main Campus and Surrounding neighborhoods. My biggest challenge is helping constituents with problems related to garbage pick-up, Code Enforcement violations, noise complaints, and the like. My second biggest challenge, related to the first, is dealing with infill development. I absolutely support infill. It is a vital component of my anti-expansionist position. But we need to have thoughtful infill, especially with protection for H-1 overlay (Historic) neighborhoods. I think we should revisit the Downtown Design Standards that were rejected by Council a couple of years ago (I voted for them).