Street Patterns and Zoning Notifications
As we continue to grow our city and encourage new development for more Affordable housing, complete neighborhoods, expanded access to transportation options, and greater access to amenities nearby, the way we design our streets is paramount to our community members’ quality of life.
We know from the Lexington Sustainable Growth Study that we have thousands of vacant acres of land inside the Urban Services Boundary. Building comprehensive, safe, equitable, and accessible communities from the outset starts with our street patterns; which improves traffic flow through our neighborhoods and makes neighborhoods safer for walking, biking, and even playing outside.
The Planning and Public Safety Committee of the Urban County Council voted to move the Street Patterns Subdivision Regulation Amendment (SRA) forward to the full council for review. The new policy will only impact new neighborhoods – which means we have the ability to encourage maximizing development on our vacant land for more homes, and at the same time create safer, more walkable, and more livable communities for all of our neighbors.
More walkable and livable communities also play a key role in building equity in our new neighborhoods. In most communities built in the last 50 years, the design was built around the car; sprawling, low density, and scattered development separated by busy roadways, which requires reliance on cars. Marginalized communities, including people of color, have been historically less likely to own cars and more negatively impacted by these poor development patterns. All working families who own a car must deal with the burden of the associated costs – which are significant. In Lexington, transportation costs account for 24% of a regional typical household income of around $50,000. Research shows us that compact, walkable neighborhoods with access to jobs, transit, and businesses are more sustainable, more affordable, and more efficient.
More connected street networks – which mean shorter blocks, fewer cul de sacs, and more connections to parks – reduce travel speeds, encourage multi-modal transportation, and increase our quality of life. While it may at first seem counter-intuitive, the more intersections there are in a given neighborhood, the safer our neighborhoods are and the less car-centric they can be. More connections to other streets mean less traffic, increased access for emergency vehicles, reduced speeds, and better access to green space, which are highly correlated to our overall health and wellbeing. These policies encourage street design which has people in mind as opposed to just cars.
While shorter blocks and cul de sac lengths could result in less space for lower density, sprawling residential development, these reforms offer the opportunity to design our communities with the intention of offering more housing options from the outset. Increasing the offering of diverse housing options, which was one of the most pressing recommendations coming out of the 2017 Housing Demand Study, partnered on by Fayette Alliance, LFUCG, LBAR, BIA, and others, in addition to more connected streets, will change our communities for the better.
We know the question is not if Lexington grows, it’s how. We will continue to grow, welcoming new neighbors and new businesses alike to our existing communities. As always, we advocate for growing our community in a responsible and sustainable way, with a long-term look at our community’s future. Updating our policies to ensure we work towards equity as we grow, at all levels of city engagement, is critical.
This proposed amendment calls for changes in our Zoning Ordinance to expand the number of community members who receive notification about zone changes which will go before a Public Hearing at the Planning Commission to all occupants of a property, like renters, not just property owners. Welcoming all of our neighbors to have a seat at the decision-making table of our planning processes is key to achieving equitable community policy, and ensuring more diverse voices can be heard on important issues. This policy change will be reviewed by the Planning and Public Safety Committee of the Urban-County Council soon.
Over 10,000 community members weighed in on the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, Imagine Lexington; the biggest community engagement in our comprehensive planning process to date. As a piece of implementation of that Plan, this update to our Zoning Ordinance works to inform and include a larger portion of the Lexington community in our planning and zoning processes.
Through Imagine Lexington, the community spoke about what kind of place we want Lexington to be, and bringing more voices to the table; those who rent, lease, or own a house, business, community space, and everything in between, must be included to ensure our future success. Growing our community sustainably means growing our community equitably, and this proposal is a step in the right direction.