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Where to draw the line? The enduring debate over Lexington's Urban Service Boundary enters its latest chapter

Downtown Lexington, Kentucky on March 2, 2022
Josh James
Downtown Lexington, Kentucky on March 2, 2022

This week the Urban County Council took a step toward delivering new recommendations regarding the process for expanding the Urban Service Boundary to the city’s planning commission. But the discussion invited some pushback from the public.

The goal of the recommendations was to set out a new process for determining if or when to expand the city’s Urban Service Boundary, and with any luck, to avoid outcomes like the one in Hamburg that many view as poorly executed.

Under the latest set of recommendations, the city would decide when and how to expand based on a sustainable growth matrix, to be reviewed every five years. The report discussed in council this week was yet another attempt to negotiate an ongoing battle often framed as one between growth and preservation.

Several speakers told the council they’re not fans of the new proposal, criticizing the input that went into the plan and the potential effect on surrounding farmland.

But Vice Mayor Steve Kay stressed that the recommendations are not binding and could undergo any number of changes or be scrapped by the planning commission.

"It can take this report and approve it as is. It can take this report and amend it. It can take this report and regard it," the outgoing vice mayor said, referring to the commission.

Kay has emphasized that the plan is not about whether to expand or not expand the boundary – rather it’s a roadmap for making that decision in the future and identifying areas that could be developed under specific situations down the line.

One open question: How will the reshuffled council approach the topic once it's seated?