Jennifer Mossotti- 2018 Candidate Questionnaire
Running for: Urban County Council- District 9
I have served on the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council representing the 9th District from 1997-2004 and from 2012 to the present. As the current Chairperson of the Council’s Planning & Public Safety Committee, I am keenly aware of the importance of smart growth, safer neighborhoods, clean, well-maintained streets, and engaging and inviting parks and preserving our greenspace and signature horse farms. I believe that efficient basic services and sound infrastructure are the foundation of good community government.
I remain dedicated to ensuring that my representation of the 9th District down at City Hall is proactive and not reactive as I focus on preserving the integrity of our neighborhoods through the ongoing improvement of basic services.
I understand that better long-range planning and a skilled and educated workforce are key to helping our existing businesses expand and to attracting complementary new businesses. As one of Lexington’s longest-serving Council members, I recognize the crucial importance of achieving that delicate balance between development and preservation.
With my record of experience and ongoing service to our community on the Urban County Council, I am seeking re-election so that I may continue to play a positive role in how local government faces its challenges.
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?
Yes, land use efficiency and infill need to be our key objective. I believe we have an adequate inventory of land inside the USB at present to support our short-term growth. The Comprehensive Plan is the guiding blueprint for how our unique city grows. The American Planning Association estimates that more than one-hundred metropolitan areas now have some form of urban containment strategy. It’s simply smart business. Lexington is a leader of such planning and enjoys the oldest growth boundary in the United States, dating all the way back to 1958. Over the years, Lexington’s growth boundary has been adjusted as necessary. I am proud of my input on and support of the Goals and Objectives for our 2018 Comprehensive Plan. Through unprecedented public input in developing the plan, it was overwhelmingly evident that many people did not want expansion. Expansion of the USB would be justified only if there is an effective, affordable housing plan in place, our underutilized corridors are redeveloped, and maximum land used within the boundary is achieved that is satisfactory to everyone’s overall quality of life. We must fight sprawl into our signature Bluegrass farmland. Our farmland is finite. Over time, the boundaries may need to be adjusted to meet changing conditions, but I do not believe we have reached that threshold.
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?
Lexington is a city of unique neighborhoods and it is essential that we protect the character of each individual neighborhood so that they each continue to flourish. We must strive to provide a diverse mix of housing choices for all stages of life and income ranges. Walkable, mixed use developments that enhances our community are essential. I support efforts to maintain a vision to create a wide variety of housing options in Lexington that ultimately supports neighborhood vitality. The City’s Planning Commission and Urban County Council must continue to focus on policies, practices, and regulatory instruments to facilitate the protection and preservation of our existing neighborhoods. We can achieve such goals by implementing and maintaining programs and grants designed to support our neighborhoods. In the City’s most recent budget, the Neighborhood Action Match Grant Program went unfunded. Since 1985, the program had supported neighborhood associations in carrying out development activities and improvements. Upon learning of the funding cut, I advocated for funds to be made available to continue this important program and I am pleased to report that the administration was ultimately able to fund the program for another year. Neighborhood associations in Lexington are now able to once again apply for up to $10,000 for special projects that enhance our city.
3. What specific recommendations do you have to address Lexington’s affordable housing issue?
Lexington’s Urban County Council has demonstrated a strong commitment towards addressing the availability of affordable housing where the need exists. With the creation of the City’s Office of Affordable Housing, we as a city took a huge step towards ensuring those who could benefit from affordable housing will be aware of how to take advantage of available resources. I remain fully supportive of the office and its efforts in addressing the issue.
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?
Housing that an aging population can afford is crucial and the need to construct and rehabilitate affordable housing is a top priority. Recently, $300,000 from Lexington’s Affordable Housing Fund was used to leverage the renovation of the Ballard Apartments. The opportunity for government, and the private sector exists to create quality, low-cost housing and should be utilized. Another proposal is to encourage universal design for aging in place, making it easier for residents to stay in their homes when their needs and abilities change. Lexington’s new Senior Center is a state-of-the-art facility that is home to a variety of activities and services and programs for all Fayette County citizens ages 60 or older. Lexington continues to invest in senior-related activities and services and is very forward-thinking when it comes to the needs of our aging population. Our senior centers offer a safe and affordable place to spend time engaged in meaningful activities. They are staffed by dedicated professionals who have experience working with the senior population. In addition, Lexington has a Senior Services Commission and several conferences such as the ‘I Know Expo’ that cater to educating seniors and caregivers on available programs and advocating for the needs of our aging population. I am committed to supporting these programs to meet the needs of our growing senior population.
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 have been a relentless advocate for annually funding the PDR program. Since the program’s inception in 2000, it has been an integral component of our community due to the area’s distinctive farmland and high-quality soils. Each year nearly two-million acres of American farmland are lost to sprawling urban development and we risk seeing our important farmland disappear. In Lexington, approximately 30,000 acres have been protected, and our PDR program has been lauded nationally as a model for conservation. Lexington and Fayette County enjoys being home to arguably the most famous and productive horse industry in the world—our state’s signature industry—generating tens of millions of tourism industry dollars and providing thousands of jobs annually. Agriculture and the businesses that support it are responsible for 1 out of 12 jobs and for $2.3 billion in annual output. Focusing and expanding on these industries are essential. Historically, the general fund has annually dedicated up to $2 million dollars for the purchase of easements. Earmarking funds in the budget until the goal of protecting 50,000 acres has been achieved is our obligation to the citizens of Lexington. Utilization of a percentage of monies from the hotel/motel tax has been widely discussed to subsidize the program if general fund monies are not allocated. Our PDR program is essential towards protecting our quality of life.
6. Citizens have noted frustration with traffic congestion. What are your specific ideas to address traffic congestion?
Rising traffic congestion is an inescapable challenge in large and growing metropolitan areas like Lexington. A balanced transportation system is essential. Optimizing traffic-light management, using CCTV to monitor road conditions, enforcing existing traffic laws, improving perceptions of buses, improving cycling infrastructure, improving bus services, developing and refining park-and-ride are just some of things needed to help ease traffic congestion—and many of those things we are already doing here in Lexington. I support the use of Intelligent Transportation System devices to speed traffic flows, including enhanced electronic coordination of signal lights on local streets, large variable signs informing drivers of traffic conditions ahead, one-way street patterns, GPS equipment, and radio broadcasts of current road conditions. These technologies exist now and can be effective in helping reduce peak hour congestion. Lexington is fortunate to have the Lexington Area Metropolitan Planning Organization who is responsible for coordinating the transportation planning process for our region. Effective planning is crucial in combating the traffic congestion challenge as we continue to grow.
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 do support establishing the new process as outlined in the 2018 Comprehensive Plan via an appropriate study—involving diverse stakeholders and constituents—that meets the projected needs of the agricultural and development communities by preserving key agricultural resources from development pressures and identifying land for future urban development. As clearly outlined in the plan, we must 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. The goal is to complete the study by July 1, 2020 and then implement the process resulting from the study as an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan. My statement as quoted in latest editorial by the Lexington Herald-Leader sums it up best: “Our guide for how to grow in a smart way is what the Council is seeking.”
8. What is the biggest challenge facing your district? What are your specific recommendations to address that challenge?
Balancing new development while preserving our current greenspace and protecting the quality of life in our neighborhoods is an ever-present challenge for the 9th District and our community. Lexington is an increasingly attractive place to work, live, play, and raise a family and with the influx of new families and new businesses who want to be a part of our thriving community comes the associated challenges of maintaining smart growth. With that challenge also comes the responsibility of ensuring that public safety needs are adequately addressed. And I believe we are doing just that.
Lexington has enjoyed very high rankings from numerous national entities such as Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and others for quality of life, best place to live and raise a family, and other similar accolades in recent weeks, months, and years. So, it’s clear we are doing many things right. But there’s always room for improvement–from basic services and on down the line. That’s exactly why I am running for re-election. To use my deep experience as a proven community leader as we continue building on the momentum we are enjoying as we move our community forward.