Urban Growth Management Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment

May 7, 2024

Dear Neighbors,

The Fayette County Neighborhood Council sent the document displayed below to the Urban County Council yesterday regarding the proposed Urban Growth Management Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment (UGMZ).  FCNC has found problems with the ZOTA and has asked the Council to make changes to it.  The Council will be discussing the ZOTA today (Tuesday May 7) in the General Government and Planning Committee.  FCNC concerns include:

1.  Increased density (duplex R-2 zone from single family and duplexes to 8-plexes).

2.  An increase in rental property without a program to register and inspect rental properties.

3.  Increased commercial property in neighborhoods (B-1 in R-4 and R-5 zones).

4.  Unlimited Height with no limits on setbacks for residential property in B-3 and CN zones (automobile, based primarily on arterials).

5.  Increased opportunities for gentrification with commercial and higher mass properties replacing smaller residences.

6.  Increased environmental concerns especially regarding reductions in greenspace and a greater possibility for flooding (the Houston, Texas disaster is a current example of a bad outcome).

7.  An assumption that public transit will improve dramatically and that the current very limited use of Lextran will grow significantly.

8.  A density bonus awarded to for developers provided they build housing for people with incomes below 125% of Fayette County’s Adjusted Median Income (AMI) level.  The 125% provision is too high; it includes no requirement to provide affordable housing (the conventional standard for a need for affordable housing is an income of 80% of AMI), and no zone change with public engagement is required.  In addition, it presumably allows infill development next door that is out-of-context.

9.  Using ZOTAs to make countywide changes in zoning is a bad idea because areas with the same zoning are often quite different. Additionally, ZOTAs are not directed toward a single area, which mutes public engagement.

On the plus side, the ZOTA hopes to increase affordable housing, reduce food deserts, increase economic development, and improve public transit.

The timing is bad because of the continued expansion of real estate speculation in neighborhoods in the form of short-term rental properties (Airbnb, etc.).  The document we sent to the Council is attached below.  FCNC asks that you discuss the short-term rental ordinance and urban growth management ZOTA with your council members.  They alone can do something about it.


Walt Gaffield, President

Fayette County Neighborhood Council



1.  The increase in density and rental properties proposed for Lexington makes it important that the Urban County Council also pass a rental property registration and inspection ordinance.  If that does not happen with the passage of the Urban Growth ZOTA, problems with deteriorating rental properties will grow.  Most cities require rental property registration, and Lexington is behind in that area.

2.  An increase in the intensity of development in existing neighborhoods will result in the displacement of some homeowners, especially in urban and minority neighborhoods.  Many current renters will not be able to afford the new buildings that replace their current residences.

3.  Lexington lacks the resources and population to have an effective public transit system.  Whether it’s providing small transit for people to make medical appointments or going to work in the morning, our transit system does not work.  The Commerce Lexington website suggests that only 0.7 percent of people in Central Kentucky use a bus to go to work.  A more current study suggests that only 1.7% in Fayette County commute by bus.  The proposed ZOTA suggests that constructing more intense development will magically result in a higher percentage of bus riders during the morning and evening rush hours.  The Urban County Council should require Planning staff  work jointly with Lextran and coordinate residential development with public transit improvements such that they occur at approximately the same time.  There is only one comprehensive transfer stop in Fayette County on Vine Street. and buses mostly only run out on arterials and return.  Buses usually reach bus stops every hour.

4.  Lexington has worked to eliminate minimum parking requirements.  Especially in urban neighborhoods with narrow streets and small or no driveways, the Planning Commission should be very careful to determine if proposed parking would be adequate.  An 8-plex, as would be permitted in R-2, could come with eight (8) automobiles.  The average number of cars per Accessory Dwelling Unit in Portland Oregon is one.

5.  The unlimited height and no setback restrictions for residential development in both the CN and B-3 zones do not consider the location of the project.  Such a development could be incompatible with already developed residential areas, and language should be added to protect adjacent neighborhoods.

6.  Drive-thru businesses should not be permitted in B-1 neighborhood business zones as they detract from walkability and increase traffic problems.

7.  The Workforce density bonus, if to develop “missing middle housing,” should require at least 10% affordable housing (80% or less of the Fayette County AMI).  The ZOTA proposes that the bonus should include housing for people with an income of 120% of AMI and that is too high and unnecessary.  David Parolek, the author of “Missing Middle Housing: Thinking Big and Building Small to Respond to Today’s Housing Crisis,” has stated that context and step downs are very, very important in residential areas.  There is no consideration of step downs or context with the “Workforce bonus” and that should be added.

8.  The affordable housing density bonus is appropriate and necessary because of the difficulty in competing for land in a timely manner and the significant need.  We recommend that any affordable housing developer wishing to use said bonus have at least one required meeting with nearby residents in the vicinity of a project.  An interchange of ideas could improve the development.  Open communication is important and often missing.

9.  The ZOTA proposes to add B-1 business uses to R-4 and R-5 residential zones.  The Council should add language to the ZOTA asking that the Planning Commission consider the impact on gentrification of proposed  B-1 additions and whether the uses are needed in each individual area.