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Lexington budget veto override, major zoning revisions up for final vote Thursday

Josh James

Lexington’s city council is slated to vote Thursday night on whether to override Mayor Linda Gorton’s veto of nearly $750-thousand in extra spending added to the city budget and to approve a massive zoning overhaul.

Given the city’s overperformance in revenue post-COVID, the council opted to add 10 new positions to city government. To do that, they upped the city’s revenue projections by the amount needed. That didn’t sit well with Mayor Gorton, who has preferred to budget conservatively.

Adrian Bryant with CivicLex says the two sides can point to arguments in their favor.

"On the one hand, that's a .15% increase to the General Fund revenue projection. It's really not that much," Bryant notes. "The narrative that you've been hearing from the administration, but also some outside economic experts from the University of Kentucky who assist in the revenue projection process for the city, is that we have seen the revenue overperformance over the last several years... and the city is going to continue to grow, but that growth is most likely going to stabilize."

And that’s what has Gorton and her team feeling cautious – not wanting to add recurring expenses ahead of a possible slowdown in growth.

Bryant says by October, the city will have revenue numbers for the 2023-24 fiscal year, which will signal whether that possible flattening in growth might be coming sooner or later.

Lexington leaders will also cast a final vote on a major overhaul of the city’s zoning rules tonight. The overarching goal of the zoning changes, which have been in the works for months, is to create more dense, sustainable housing in Lexington.

Bryant says, to do that, it makes more than just a few tweaks.

"It's really expansive, so it's hard to distill it, but basically what it does is in all the residential zones — excluding R1, which is what the majority of Lexington is zoned for —in R2 and up, it expands the types of housing that can be billed and the number of units that can be built within those zones," Bryant says. "It also makes some changes to how neighborhood businesses are developed."

That’s just a sample of some of the larger changes that are part of one of the biggest zoning overhauls the city has attempted in decades.

The reforms come amid ongoing concerns about housing costs in the city, rising rents, and the view that Lexington needs to do more to respond to demand.

The city council meeting starts at 6 pm Thursday.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.