A group tasked with identifying up to 5,000 acres for potential expansion of Lexington’s growth boundary has narrowed the search to areas near Athens Boonesboro Road and Winchester Road, and land near the Blue Grass Airport and Man O War.
The Urban Growth Management Advisory Committee, made up of four council members and 11 citizens, started meeting in early August to identify 2,700-5,000 acres that could be added to the city’s growth boundary. The boundary has not been moved since the last expansion in 1996 when 5,400 acres was added.
Using sewerability studies and other criteria (including, but not limited to, closeness to the current boundary, proximity to protected farmland, available roads in the area and developable land), the group has narrowed the possible expansion areas to three main areas. The largest is approximately 3,000 acres in the area between Winchester Road, I-75, I-64 and North Cleveland Road.
Other areas that could be added include areas off of Man O War, Parkers Mill Road and Bowman Mill Road, which is approximately 920 acres. The area on Athens Boonesboro Road and I-75 is approximately 886 acres.
In total, the areas being considered equal 4,837 gross acres.
On Tuesday, the group did not make any final decisions on what areas will be forwarded to the planning commission, which will make the final determination.
The group is expected to continue discussions Sept. 5. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 12 where the public will be able to weigh in.
However, the land use group Fayette Alliance and several private citizens have filed a lawsuit challenging the expansion of the urban service boundary. That group is also asking a Fayette Circuit judge to stop the work of the Urban Growth Management Advisory Committee until the lawsuit challenging the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council vote to expand the urban service area has been decided.
What about costs?
A new sewerability study estimated the costs to expand sewer to certain areas could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Estimates for the committee’s identified areas will have to be completed by a consultant and likely won’t be ready for a few weeks, said Charlie Martin, director of the division of water quality.
For example, one area between Winchester and Royster roads could cost as much as $296 million to put in all the sewer infrastructure needed to develop that area, according to the sewerabilty study.
The costs are dependent on whether the area would need more city sewer infrastructure such as pump stations and new main-line pipes.
But the other costs to expand in certain areas aren’t known right now, said Councilwoman Kathy Plomin, who serves on the committee and represents the rural area.
“There are a lot of two-lane roads out there that can’t accommodate the traffic,” Plomin said. Maintaining and building roads is costly, she said.
John Phillips, another committee member, agreed.
Sewer costs are only part of the equation. The city will need more police officers, fire stations and possibly firefighters as well as more employees in streets and sanitation.
“Nobody is asking, ‘How much this is going to cost?’” Phillips said. The city is struggling to find enough police officers right now, Phillips said.
Planning Director Jim Duncan said the costs associated with expanding the urban service area will come during the master planning process. That process must be completed by October 2024, according to resolutions passed by the council.
Others said some areas the group is considering will not be suitable for affordable housing.
Zach Worsham, an affordable housing developer, said federal agencies do not approve funding for affordable housing near airports, which would rule out the approximately 920 acres along Man O War and and Parkers Mill Road.
Worsham also said much of the housing in that area is also expensive, large homes.
Worsham said it’s typically easier to put affordable housing near other affordable housing because there is less push back from neighbors. However, any expansion of the urban service boundary will hopefully decrease land prices, which will hopefully translate to more affordable housing.
When the council voted in June to expand the urban service area, it emphasized the need for more affordable housing and housing of all types. The motion came after many criticized the council for moving to expand without having any plans in place to ensure affordable housing is built in the expansion area.
In the 1996 expansion area, only single-family market rate homes have been built. There are two affordable apartment complexes in the expansion area. A little less than half of the 5,400 acres have not yet been developed.
During Tuesday’s meeting, committee members also struggled with whether they should include gross acres — the total number of acres in an area — or net acres. Net acres removes land that can’t be built on like floodplains and government land, including schools.
The group ultimately decided to go with up to 5,000 gross acres but not less than 2,700 net acres.
The planning staff will also return Sept. 5 with more information about each area including what land in those areas is vacant and available for development.
To find more information about the areas considered for expansion, including detailed maps of each area, go to imaginelexington.com/ugm.