Moratorium Removed campus construction

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[pictured at the mic is Neil Chethik. On the left is Steve Olshewsky.]

Today’s a Holiday in Lexington. There is no LFUCG worksession tomorrow, and there’s no Council Meeting this Thursday.
And there is no relief in sight for the ongoing “Town v. Gown” conflict which is escalating daily in the neighborhoods adjacent to the University of Kentucky.

Homeowners took their frustrations to LFUCG on Thursday night, September 3, where a proposed moratorium designed to curb vinyl-box additions, was removed from the docket.

Council Member Diane Lawless conveyed the urgency of the measure, introducing it with “Last Tuesday night, while we were here, a yard was blacktopped and a curb-cut put in on Elizabeth Street, perfectly legally.” 

Council Member Doug Martin, while acknowledging the problem of single-family dwellings transformed into apartment buildings, said “I don’t think a moratorium on renovation is the solution here because that’s a very broad brush.” Even some advocates agreed the moratorium was poorly-worded and probably wouldn’t survive the process.

Council Member Ed Lane suggested “file a complaint on property owners you feel are in violation of zoning ordinance – let’s see if our government can apply laws we already have on the books.”

Council Member Lawless responded, “it is so frustrating when I hear Mr. Lane talking about boarding houses…I would invite you, Council Member Lane, to call Building Inspection.”

Ultimately, after the proposed moratorium was removed from the docket, Mayor Newberry said he would ask the Student Housing Task Force to wrap up their draft report so that CM Lawless would have the benefit of their work when drafting a new proposal.

Harck Pickett responded, “The giant sucking sound that left this room was not any of the residents…it was the Builders.” His wife Kathy was nearly in tears as she described the destruction of her neighborhood, while reminding those assembled that she works in real estate, and would never advocate measures that would damage responsible business owners.

While Mayor Newberry asked those assembled to refrain from applause to expedite the process, Neil Chethik (husband of representative Kelly Flood) responded, “For the last 10 seconds of my time I want to applaud the people who are HERE.”

Janet Cowen (of the Columbia Heights neighborhood) told each Council Member and the Mayor and the Vice Mayor, “Two years ago, I stood here, I was promised by most of you, something would be done,” adding, “I know all of the numbers Mr. Lane. I have them on speed dial.”

Kate Savage, President of the Columbia Heights Neighborhood Association presented slides showing the ongoing deterioration of her neighborhood, describing how destruction was happening overnight. One evening “you were looking out on a bucolic view from your kitchen window, and the next you’re looking at blacktop.”

She finished her allotted time saying, “We need your help. We need it now. We’re sick of waiting. We’ve waited long enough. We need you to impose deadlines on yourselves.”

Vice Mayor Jim Gray articulated the frustrations of the citizens present by comparing them to the movie Network, “we’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore.”

UK faculty member (and wife of poet Jeff Worley), Linda Worley, said it is time to “ask tough questions: what is best for Lexington? Are blighted areas surrounding UK—that ooze—in the best interest of the city?”

Steve Olshewsky told Council Members, “I want you to give me back my parking place in front of my house. I want my garden back,” (free of beer cans, and with an unobstructed view).

In the online discussion that continued throughout the weekend, UK students were also clearly frustrated. Those who are quiet, respectful, law-abiding neighbors don’t appreciate being stereotyped.
Even those students who are admittedly loud, disrespectful, and rowdy (like the ones who admitted to Oshewsky, “yeah, everybody hates us”) point out that they’re just being kids. They have to park their cars somewhere. They have to have their parties somewhere.

For years, UK allowed and encouraged de facto student housing to encroach into heavily residential neighborhoods (like Columbia Heights and Seven Parks) where they were not wanted. Expansion along the downtown corridors – which were in desperate need of residential development and student dollars languished (despite the availability of bar and retail space downstairs that would remain largely undamaged by late-night loud parties).

The S. Limestone corridor development may encourage growth in that direction, but the execution has been so poor it’s left a bad taste in the mouths of students, business-owners, and the University.

As Council Member Doug Martin put it, “Lexington isn’t the only college town in America.” He recommended looking at model cities that have successfully dealt with this issue.

LFUCG and CommerceLex took pricey trips to Madison this year and Austin the year before (both thriving college communities) – did anybody on board for those trips ASK?



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