Fayette Alliance celebrates 15 years of smart growth initiatives that save rural land
In May 2006, a passionate group of community members came together to form the Fayette Alliance, a coalition from the agricultural, neighborhood, development, and downtown sectors of Lexington-Fayette County. Concerned by the threat of unnecessary expansion into our rural areas, they began to transform conversations and decision-making processes around growth, uniting voices that cared deeply about sustainably growing our city and wanted a seat at the table to fight for Lexington’s future. They committed to positively impacting county-wide planning and zoning laws — the building blocks of a better quality of life, economy, and environment for all of us — through land-use advocacy, education, and research. Fifteen years later, we remain dedicated to this framework — carefully balancing the connection between our vibrant city and productive Bluegrass farmland.
Since Fayette Alliance was founded, there have been those who have posed growth and farmland preservation as “either/or” propositions. To us, they have always been essential partners. Fighting against unjustified expansion led to advocacy and education around efficient use of vacant and underutilized land through infill and redevelopment, investment in affordable housing initiatives, and in our downtown core. It led to objective research showing that investing inside the Urban Services Boundary is not only critical to protect our prime soils; it is essential to responsibly meeting our community’s needs.
A strategy of smart growth better serves us all. It incentivizes using existing land for housing development close to where we work and play, lowers the cost of community services, and focuses investment in existing infrastructure. It preserves our farmland, the factory floor of our signature agricultural industries, which provides for 1 in 12 jobs and our cultural identity. It is the balance between growth and farmland that is the foundation of Lexington’s success.
In pursuit of this balance, Fayette Alliance has worked at City Hall to usher in more than 130 responsible land-use policies; created an annual educational program to engage community members; funded more than 10 independent studies to promote data-driven solutions for smart growth; supported the protection of more than 30,000 acres of prime Bluegrass farmland; played an integral role in the EPA Consent Decree’s $590 million investment in local infrastructure; supported over $17 million in affordable housing funding; developed a robust voter education platform for local elections; and supported over $750 million in infill development projects throughout the community.
As Lexington continues to grow, there is no question we must build more diverse and affordable housing options, generate quality jobs, and improve transportation. We must invest in neighborhoods while simultaneously instituting policies preventing displacement of our most vulnerable. We must protect our farmland, a finite resource with an annual economic impact of $2.3 billion. We must push for innovative development of the more than 17,000 acres of vacant and underutilized land we have inside the USB, and for policies prioritizing equity and a higher quality of life for all. It is challenging but necessary work for Lexington’s bright future.
As we commemorate this important milestone, Fayette Alliance will profile 15 of its greatest accomplishments, feature videos with community and board members, and launch a celebratory bourbon in the fall. And while we celebrate our past, we also commit to work towards an equitable future in land-use and agriculture. We have pledged to support Black Soil KY, a local organization working to reconnect Black Kentuckians with their heritage in agriculture, with a $15,000 grant over 3 years. We are proud to support their efforts to bring the farm to our city in new and diverse ways, highlighting equitable representation in Lexington’s signature agricultural sector.
Fayette Alliance continues to be committed to working with our community members and leaders to address our challenges and leverage our opportunities. We will keep advocating, educating, and researching for smart and equitable growth, because there is no question Lexington is an extraordinary place and it’s worth fighting for.
Brittany Roethemeier is the Executive Director of Fayette Alliance.
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