(from the 3rd District Newsletter, a great article outlining where to get answers about upcoming zone changes. Note: You should probably contact your own Councilmember if you need help with factual info, not specifically the 3rd District Councilmember)
The 3rd District Council Office has received numerous messages regarding an upcoming zone change, so here is some information regarding this and other zone changes you may find helpful.
Councilmembers are advised not to discuss zone changes with anyone prior to a zone change hearing before Council.
It’s entirely reasonable to want to talk to your Councilmember about changes to your neighborhood, especially changes as significant as a zone change. However, in the matter of zone changes, City Council is in the very specific position of acting in a quasi-judicial nature.
Roughly, what that means is, much like a judge in a criminal case can’t hear testimony outside the courtroom, neither can City Council hear from either side of a zone change discussion outside the context of a Zone Change Hearing.
City Council is advised that, according to the law, they should review only documents that are in the public record, and wait until the hearing before Council to consider the “testimony” (if you will) from both sides of the discussion.
If a Councilmember engages too much in the discussion prior to the Zone Change hearing, he or she could be asked to recuse themselves from the hearing.
Here’s how to find information about a zone change
You can always contact the Council Office for factual information about a zone change.
The best way to contact the office is to email email@example.com (Note: contact YOUR OWN Councilmember). The Council Office can direct you to public records, inform you of hearing dates, and answer any other questions regarding factual information. What the Council Office cannot do is listen to opinions either pro or con, or express an opinion on the matter.
You can contact the Division of Planning.
You can always call 311, tell the operator you want to discuss a zone change, and ask to be transferred to the Division of Planning. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org to express any opinions about the zone change at any point in the process and they will be entered into the public record.
Questions you might want to ask the Division of Planning include: What information is considered when the Planning Commission or City Council are considering zone changes? What information is not considered?
These things will help you present an argument, pro or con, that could possibly affect the outcome of the hearings.
Generally speaking, the main things to consider are: 1) does this plan fit with the goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan? 2) is this zone appropriate for the area it is proposed?
Frequently, things like aesthetic concerns (e.g. “The vinyl siding looks terrible”) are mentioned in zone change hearings, and those items aren’t often taken into consideration by any governing body when deciding whether or not the zone is appropriate. Functioning of the zone is the big question, and functioning of the zone can best be supported or refuted by referencing the Comprehensive Plan or practical impacts to the neighborhood.
You can use the Building Eye website.
Visit https://lexingtonky.buildingeye.com/ and you can search for building permits or planning applications (like zone changes).
To find more information on zone changes choose “Planning Applications” from the main menu.
You can then use the map to navigate to any area of interest, or search by address. when you see a dot on the map, click it. A sidebar will open and at the bottom it will offer a link for “More Details.”
This will open the item in the Accela database where you can click through for all the details or drop down the “Record Info” area and go to “Attachments” to see things like development plans.
You can engage with your Neighborhood Association.
Neighborhood Associations are first line contacts regarding neighborhood changes. Often developers will meet with neighborhood associations regarding project before they even come to the Planning Commission.
Consider joining your local Neighborhood Association to keep up on meetings and important dates relevant to community proposals.
Neighborhood Associations are not the same thing as HOAs. In joining a Neighborhood Association, you are free to engage as much or as little as you want, and doesn’t necessarily obligate you to pay any dues (it varies by association) and does not place any deed restrictions on your property.