Litigation is Necessary to Ensure Smart Growth
Over the summer, Fayette Alliance and a group of citizens filed a lawsuit against the LFUCG Urban County Council. The lawsuit was filed in response to the way in which decisions were made to mandate an expansion of the Urban Service Boundary (USB) by 2,700–5,000 acres.
After time and consideration, Fayette Circuit Court Judge Lucy VanMeter dismissed Fayette Alliance’s case due to lack of standing of the plaintiffs, and because the decision to expand the USB was not a final action.
- Important: Judge VanMeter ruled that because the USB had not yet been expanded, no harm had yet been done to the plaintiffs.
- Need to Know: Fayette Alliance has decided to appeal Judge VanMeter’s decision and has taken steps to begin the appeal process.
About the Ruling
Judge VanMeter did not rule on the legal merits of the case itself. Rather, her decision was based on Fayette Alliance’s standing to file the lawsuit at this point in the USB expansion process.
Fayette Alliance believes that the issues raised by our initial lawsuit are too important and precedent-setting to leave unresolved and unaddressed at this critical stage in the USB expansion process.
It is our responsibility to work to ensure that growth-related decisions are made properly, and within the confines of the law, for Lexington-Fayette County.
We continue to believe that:
The decision made by the Council to mandate an expansion of the USB was not legal.
The decision violated the Kentucky statutes governing the drafting of Comprehensive Plans.
The decision defied historical precedent.
- We need to continue to ask difficult legal questions related to how the decision to expand the USB was made.
On Thursday, October 5, 2023, the first hearing took place in the lawsuit filed against the Urban County Council by Fayette Alliance and other concerned community members.
- Need to know: We, Fayette Alliance, and other community members are pursuing legal action because of the way in which decisions were made to mandate an expansion of the USB by 2,700-5,000 acres.
Ultimately, no decisions were made at the hearing.
- Instead: Both parties were asked to file additional briefs about the issues over the next two weeks. An update is expected by the end of October.
As a reminder, Fayette Alliance and community members believe:
- The decision to mandate an expansion of the USB by the Council was not legal.
- The decision violated the Kentucky statutes governing the drafting of comprehensive plans — which require that those plans be based on data, research, and analysis.
- The decision defied historical precedent, which is clear that any decision to expand the USB in the past has been made by the Planning Commission.
Attorneys for the City of Lexington have filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming that Fayette Alliance and residents of Lexington do not have the right to pursue litigation since the formal re-zoning of land identified for expansion hasn’t yet taken place.
The Planning Commission is currently evaluating the recommendations for expansion areas by the Urban Growth Management Advisory Committee.
They will be discussing these recommendations in the Planning Commission work session on Thursday, October 19th at 1:30 p.m. in the Phoenix Building, which is open to the public.
- Important: They will not be voting on them this coming Thursday, October 12, as previously announced.
- Need to know: You can still provide public input to the Planning Commission on the Urban Growth Management website.
Your voice still matters as this process speeds ahead, and we are louder when we speak out collectively.
As of Friday, July 14, 2023, Fayette Alliance is both supporting and participating in a lawsuit against the LFUCG Urban County Council in an effort to ensure that the elected officials of Lexington-Fayette County base future growth decisions on research and data, and adhere to the legal process when finalizing the city’s Goals & Objectives of all future Comprehensive Plans.
The lawsuit has been filed by a group of concerned community members, joined by Fayette Alliance, who feel they will be directly “injured” by the adoption of the Goals & Objectives.
Important: Councilmembers will not be sued in their personal capacity, only in their official capacity as elected officials.
I.E: This is not personal, but rather strictly professional.
Process > Progress
This lawsuit is not simply about the expansion of the Urban Services Boundary. Had a process been put in place to make smart growth decisions — a process supported by data and research that followed the proper legal process — Fayette Alliance would have been committed to supporting the results of that process; especially if an in-depth analysis stated that expansion would benefit the community as a whole.
Need to know: This lawsuit is about a lack of process and is being filed in objection to the manner in which the decision was made to expand the USB.
We believe: Council disregarded historic and legal precedent and the proper legal process for making a substantial growth decision.
Who has the authority to make growth decisions?
This is the first time in our city’s nearly 200-year history that our Councilmembers have dictated an expansion of the Urban Services Boundary.
Prior to this decision, the Planning Commission has always based Lexington’s growth needs on data and research.
Kentucky State Law: Requires that any elements of the Planning Commission’s Comprehensive Plan be based upon “research, analysis, and projections” as specified in the statute.
In the original draft of the Goals & Objectives, the Planning Commission did not recommend an expansion of the USB. Rather, they recommended maintaining the current boundaries of the USB and focusing our efforts on implementing a new, data-driven process to make future growth decisions.
The Planning Commission relied upon a thorough analysis and study of land use in Fayette County to make this decision.
Yes, but: After receiving the Planning Commission’s recommendation, which complied with Kentucky State Law, our Councilmembers rewrote the Goals & Objectives.
Need to know: This rewrite mandated that the USB be expanded by a minimum of 2,700 acres, and up to 5,000 acres.
A Precedent for Irresponsible Growth
This decision to disregard the thoughtful work of our city’s Planning Commission, and ignore the data and research that has already been done, sets a precedent for irresponsible and unchecked growth for generations to come.
We believe that the Councilmember’s rewrite of the Goals & Objectives does not comply with Kentucky State Law — specifically, Kentucky Revised Statue (KRS) Chapter 100.
KRS 100.191 requires that any elements of the Planning Commission’s Comprehensive Plan be based upon “research, analysis, and projections” as specified in the statute.
Read it for yourself, here.
Fayette Alliance exists to promote responsible, data-driven growth within Lexington-Fayette County.
Important: Fayette Alliance is not an anti-growth organization.
We know: The issue is not if Lexington-Fayette County grows, but rather how we grow.
This lawsuit addresses the core of our mission and our work for data-driven and sustainable land use policy and is brought in the best interest of Lexingtonians.
It is our hope that litigation will result in the following:
- Ensure that all current and future elected officials of Lexington-Fayette County base future growth decisions on research and data.
- Ensure that all current and future elected officials of Lexington-Fayette County adhere to the legal process when finalizing the city’s Goals & Objectives of all future Comprehensive Plans.
“Residents and Community Group Sue Urban County Council Over Expansion Vote” | Lexington Herald-Leader
Kruser and Krew | WVLK AM (590)
“Lawsuit Challenges Lexington’s New Urban Service Boundary “| Spectrum News