LFUCG’s Sustainable Growth Study
January 2022 Update
Lexington’s Sustainable Growth Study, which gives Lexington residents and City Hall transparent, objective data on which we can base our future land use decisions has been approved by the Planning Commission to moved forward to the Planning and Public Safety Committee of the Urban-County Council. The commission recommended adopting the study as part of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan that guides how we build Lexington into the future. The study was completed by Stantec, an independent Planning firm here in Lexington. Councilmembers need to hear from you in support of this study that allows us to grow in a smart and thoughtful way.
October 2021 Update
The work coming from the Sustainable Growth Task Force, created as part of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan (the Plan), Imagine Lexington, offers us an exciting, data-driven opportunity to inform difficult decisions on how we grow as a community.
There is an opportunity for public input at the Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, October 28, 2021 at 1:30 pm. You can also provide input by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Background: As a reminder, over 11,000 community members weighed in to create the Plan. When the Council voted not to expand the USB, they included language directing a task force to study existing conditions, development needs, and create a new process for making long-term land-use decisions, including identifying triggers that could indicate when expansion might need to be considered. The Existing Conditions Report and Evaluation Framework that resulted are meant to be tools to inform, not replace, the Plan process taking place every 5 years. Adopting them could let us focus on how we can use our land to meet our community goals instead of just how much land we have.
The bigger discussion about growth and the many factors involved should always take place within the Plan process – because it must involve the community. What informs this discussion, however, is where the Task Force work provides us with a great opportunity. The Existing Conditions Report and the Evaluation Framework, created by the task force with a consultant, are data-based tools we’ve never had before to inform and guide this conversation. This data supplements other conversations related to growth like affordability, equity, quality of life, and more. The results provide facts about:
- How much land we have
- What we can build on it if we use it in certain ways
- Whether that land use helps us achieve our goals. This information will more accurately inform the bigger picture; including conversations about affordability, equity, quality of life, and more.
The Task Force has done 3 things:
- It compiled straightforward numbers on how many vacant acres we have for residential (homes), commercial (office/retail space), and industrial (business) uses AND projected how much space we will need in each of these categories for the next 20 years. This number can be updated routinely as land gets developed and we better understand the impacts of the pandemic and other factors on our development needs. It also opens the door for an annual development summary which can show the community how much land we’ve used on an annual basis.
- It developed 3 scenarios for how we could possibly develop our land, which range from what happens if development follows current trends to what happens if we fully implement the vision for growth set out in the Plan. Then, it calculated how many housing units and square feet of office, retail, and industrial space we could fit in each scenario. It shows us, in numbers, that if we work together to implement the goals and objectives the community set out in the Plan, we have enough existing land to meet our needs.
- It established weighted criteria to evaluate how the results of each scenario compare to the goals and objectives established by our community members in the Plan. The criteria can change as our community goals change in future years, but they will always be determined by the Plan process.
If we focus on the opportunity the Growth Trends Report and Evaluation Framework give us, we can achieve an exciting goal: to have a more data-driven process to guide community conversations about growth. Adopting the work of the Task Force is the first step to getting there. If we want to thoughtfully talk about when expansion should be considered, and every factor which goes into that consideration (cost, suitability, infrastructure, etc.), we must first know exactly what our existing resources are and how we can utilize them.
The work is complicated; because the growth of our community is complicated. But if we want to work for a sustainable and equitable future, we should look to this framework as an opportunity to make informed choices, together. That is smart growth.
August 2021 Update
The work of the Sustainable Growth Task Force, including the Existing Conditions Report and the Evaluation Framework, for the first time in our city’s history, offers all community members the opportunity to be able to see, and keep track of, the existing land and development conditions in Lexington. This work provides us all with a baseline to work from so that no matter your background or interests, you can track how much land is available for development, what type of development it can accommodate, and how much development is occurring on the land we have available.
The result of the hard work of the Task Force is that everyone will have access to the data that is so important to inform our decisions about how, and where, our community grows.
This work has been complicated – because how we grow is a very complicated question. There are many factors at play. But this process has given us an opportunity to get to the root of those factors – and look at the numbers. To look at how many acres of land we have available for development. To look at how much land we’ve used and developed and in what categories. And to look at how much land we have made available over the course of our growth history but haven’t yet used. In addition, this work has looked at the economic impacts of the way growth occurs and ways to evaluate whether the way we are growing is consistent with the vision our community set out in the 2018 Comprehensive Plan. It shows that our traditional growth pattern – low density and car-centric – is not sustainable for the generations who will live and work here in the years to come. And it also shows that we have tens of thousands of acres of land to develop in our existing boundary to meet the needs of those who will.
There are more questions to be asked, and worked on, and community input to be obtained in the discussion around growth in Lexington. But establishing a framework of facts, data, and numbers related to land-use to guide the questions we have is a success. It will help all of us be more informed about these issues that impact our everyday lives moving forward.
Stay tuned for more information on the next meeting of the Sustainable Growth Task Force and check out the resources below.
July 2021 Update
The Sustainable Growth Task Force, a group appointed by Mayor Gorton to create an objective framework to drive conversations about responsible growth and long-term land-use decisions in Lexington-Fayette County, including the Urban Services Boundary, will be presenting their work to the public and collecting input on Monday, July 19th at 6pm via Zoom.
The Task Force was created by the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, Imagine Lexington, which recommended that we do not expand the Urban Services Boundary but that we do develop an objective, data driven framework to evaluate our long-term land use decisions moving forward.
The Task Force and consulting firm Stantec have examined:
- Existing land-use conditions within the Urban Services Boundary, which includes an accounting of existing land available for for residential, commercial, office, and industrial development uses;
- Economic and population trends to inform our needs going forward;
- Revenue impacts of different types of land uses (for example, how much residentially zoned land vs. office zoned land can contribute to City revenue); and
- Priorities and goals and objectives set forth by the community in the 2018 Comprehensive Plan and how different approaches to development can achieve those goals
Based upon the study of the data points above, the Task Force has been working to develop land-use scenarios which would provide different ways of utilizing our existing land inside the USB to better understand and demonstrate the long term impacts these types of uses can have in our community.
Considering all of this information together, the Task Force is developing an objective, transparent, and reliable framework to inform the decisions our community makes about the Urban Services Boundary and other long-term land-use policies and decisions moving forward. That way, when we have discussions about the Urban Services Boundary as well as what we need to do here in Lexington to meet our housing and commercial needs, we will have data, research, and objective information to help us look at where our community stands, what policies we need to put in place, and what will help us reach out overall goals.
On Monday, July 19th at 6pm, the Task Force is hosting a public input session for community members to learn more about this process as well as provide feedback on the framework being developed to guide these important conversations.
At Fayette Alliance, we believe that in order to grow Lexington sustainably and equitably, we must maximize development of our vacant and underutilized land inside the Urban Services Boundary, which is close to existing infrastructure, jobs, and amenities. We must utilize our existing resources to meet our community’s needs before we look outside the USB to our productive farmland, and as we continue to work for a balance between our growing city and our rural economy. The research and the data tells us this is the most responsible way forward, and that we have enough land inside the USB to meet our needs in Lexington. Further, efficiently using this land will help us to meet the demands for more housing options, diversify housing types, increase affordability for all, and create more walkable, accessible neighborhoods that enhance our quality of life and our economic growth.
The Goals and Objectives of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan reflect this vision – to focus on maximizing development inside the USB, on our underutilized commercial corridors, create a diversity of housing options, incrementally increase density, increase accessible transportation options, and promote equitable access to both housing and transportation while we do so.
It is critical that any framework guiding an evaluation of long-term land-use processes focus on the community goals that were set forth in Imagine Lexington, and helps us to assess what we have inside the USB through an objective, reliable, and repeatable process. Over 10,000 community members offered input in the 2018 Comprehensive Planning process, and the result of that work, Imagine Lexington, should be our guidepost for policy and development moving forward.
The Sustainable Growth Task Force study and evaluation framework should inform the work leading up to the Comprehensive Plan process every 5 years, and updated information about how much land we are using (residential, commercial, office, and industrial) should be available to the public on an annual basis, so all of our community members can be educated on where we stand and what our needs are as a city moving forward.
Join us at the Public Input Meeting on Monday, July 19th at 6pm via Zoom, provide your input on the importance of sustainably and efficiently utilizing our land inside the USB, focusing on and supporting the Goals and Objectives of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, and responsibly and equitably growing our city into the future. If you can’t attend, check out the Sustainable Growth Task Force website and email the consultants to provide your input!
February 2021 Update
The Sustainable Growth Task Force received a data-packed presentation on February 17, 2021 from their consulting firm, Stantec. Stantec presented an analysis of the amount of vacant and underutilized land within the Urban Service Boundary, dividing it into categories of how the parcels are zoned and for what uses. Self-identified as a “conservative” analysis for further discussion and input from the task force, Stantec found 5100 acres of vacant land, 4700 acres of underutilized land, and identified 800 acres as “in transition”, meaning they actively had development plans. The majority of our remaining residential land is currently zoned R-3, which Planning Director Jim Duncan noted is the most commonly requested residential zone due to its flexibility for different types of development. This work is a significant step to getting a data driven understanding of how much land we have inside the USB, what the land uses are within it, how quickly our commercial/residential/
In addition, the Task Force received a presentation on infrastructure and sewerability and the Capacity Assurance Program (CAP) which explained Lexington’s current sewer and water quality limitations, pursuant to the EPA Consent Decree. The $600 million infrastructure project required by the Consent Decree, put into place in 2011, was only to bring existing infrastructure back up to EPA standards and account for developable land inside the USB. This analysis also helps the community understand what the infrastructure limitations might be for development, and what we need to account for as we consider future growth decisions.
Overall, the Stantec consultants are providing data which the Task Force members and community members alike can consider in our future growth decisions. Understanding our existing resources, land, zoning policies, past growth trends, and infrastructure limitations are critical to evaluating how we should and can grow as a community into the future.