LEXINGTON, Ky. — Lexington’s outskirts are historically known for their vast farmland, horse culture and natural resource cultivation. 

But with growing fears about urban encroachment on the more rural parts of the county, community leaders and residents filed a lawsuit challenging a new urban service boundary against the Lexington City Council. 

What You Need To Know

  • In June, city leaders voted to expand land use in outer areas of Lexington for the first time in 30 years

  • Nonprofit groups like Fayette Alliance, a group advocating for smart growth, are cautious about expanding the urban service boundary

  • The Fayette Alliance, along with residents and other groups, are suing the Lexington City Council to challenge the decision

The Lexington nonprofit, Fayette Alliance and the group of real estate, farm and equine specialists are suing council members for expanding the urban service boundary.

“From our perspective, it’s critical to maintain that balance between our vibrant city, and our productive farmland itself, and so all of our efforts are again, towards smart sustainable growth to achieve those ends,” said Fayette Alliance Director Brittany Roethemeier.  

They say the decision was made without considering Kentucky state law for comprehensive planning. The law entails specific “administrative requirements for research, analysis and projections” when it comes to comprehensive planning.

“As an organization, we want solutions for our community, but we know that it’s critical to ask the legal questions. Are our decision-makers following the right process?” Roethemeier questioned. “Are they basing their decisions on data and research and process?” 

In June, the council voted to expand up to 5,000-acres outside the current service area, along with ideas on how the land could be used.

A decision like this is typically made with the city’s planning commission leading the recommendation. The commission’s recommendation expressed that now was not the time to expand the city.

“But it was to engage and work on a data-driven process with community engagement to make future decisions about the boundary,” Roethemeier said. 

Fayette Alliance and its supporters hope this sets a precedent for an appropriate and legal process to decide on land use and development.

The comprehensive plan is discussed every five years, but this is the first time in nearly three decades the council has moved forward with the expansion of the boundary by a vote. 

While litigation may be challenging, Roethemeier says the suit shows how people are invested in what takes place in their city. 

“When it’s indirectly done, it has made this community passionate about land use and I think we’ve seen that with people who are engaged. They care about the way this land is used,” Roethemeier said.