Monday, September 2, 2013

A Look At The New Comprehensive Plan

The draft text of the 2013 Comprehensive Plan is now online. I am inviting you to go and read it, not only to understand the intentions of the leaders of our community but to also see how far that they do NOT go. I, lately, have been thinking about just how connected our city's residents are to those facilities and services that we use (or have available to us) every day.

The first part of the text is the list of adopted goals and objectives which are set by our elected Urban County council and are intended to be used for guiding plans and policies. If we have any beef with these goal statements, our comments should directed there.

Chapter 2 is titled Statements, Policies, and Data and after a brief section on the history and purpose of the plan document, a series of tables illustrating the current statistical realities of Lexington's state, there are detailed comments on what is intended to be done.

Right off the bat is the subject of accessibility. Some of my thoughts and posts over the last few years have been about just how much our recreation facilities are available to those with limited mobility. Here I do not speak of those with physical impairments like blindness or crippling diseases, but those who lack the ability to reach our parks and playgrounds with ease. I recently spoke of being able to access good, local food (or any food) without expending limited funds, time and energy to do so.

Below is that section to do with accessibility:
The 2013 Comprehensive Plan meets accessibility head on in the Goals and Objectives {A.1.c., D.1.b., and D.2.} and throughout the Plan to state without question that Lexington will strive to be a city that is accessible to all people in all areas of our community.  While we will achieve the standards set by federal regulations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act, and any other related regulations, we also value and intend to accommodate all of our citizens beyond what is required and set Lexington apart as one that welcomes all people to our city.
Below are goals which apply:
A. Growing Successful Neighborhoods
Goal 1) Expand housing choices c.) Plan for safe, affordable, and accessible housing to meet the needs of older and/or disadvantaged residents.
D. Improving a Desirable Community
Goal 1.) Work to achieve an effective and comprehensive transportation system. b.) Develop a viable network of accessible transportation alternatives for residents and commuters, which may include the use of mass transit, bicycles, walkways, ridesharing, greenways, and other strategies.
Goal 2.) Provide for accessible community facilities and services to meet the health, safety, and quality of life needs of Lexington-Fayette County’s residents and visitors.
Results of these efforts include but are not limited to the following:
  • Good accessibility to buildings through parking lots and transit stops by adding through-sidewalks (or protected pathways) wherever possible and curb ramps to sidewalks and into buildings
  • Access ramps into buildings above the minimum ADA requirements
  • Wider sidewalks (with curb ramps to roadways) wherever possible
While the Goals and Objectives, as adopted by the Council, are worded broadly enough to include all residents of whatever age or disadvantage, the text and list of action efforts appear aimed toward the 32,691 disabled persons living outside of institutions who are currently covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act and its amendments.

Growing a successful neighborhood is not just creating houses which can be considered meeting the needs of those in wheelchairs or with facilities on single levels and such. It also means being able to get to adequate shopping and social services with out requiring outside assistance or excessive travel distances. Successful neighborhoods, like the walkable and desirable ones which developed closer to downtown, and ironically without strict zoning in place, have much of what is desired in Goal D.2, yet we are currently not willing to attempt to duplicate them in the rest of the Urban Services Area. That makes me stop to wonder why the definition and interpretation of accessibility is not as broad as the goal seems to imply.

Chapter 3 begins to detail how to grow a successful neighborhood.
Lexington’s neighborhoods are lively and diverse places with histories, personalities, stories, famous residents, unique businesses, local restaurants, and ethnicities. People choose their neighborhood for many reasons, including housing affordability and the test scores of nearby schools.
Not all of Lexington's neighborhoods are what you consider “lively” and those more recent ones not only lack a long history or real personality, but exhibit a strong sense of diverse colors of sameness. Local restaurants and unique businesses are seldom seen in many of our suburban neighborhoods but rather in the intense shopping areas which buffer our neighborhoods from each other. Many of our unique, local restaurants need to draw from much more than one or two nearby neighborhoods.

So too is the similar story of the local or nearby school. Seldom is the neighborhood school in a position to facilitate walking or biking to class without involving massive auto traffic, which only exacerbates said traffic when parents cannot rely of school (or Lextran) bus service. Often the housing affordability of the neighborhoods near a “good” testing local school will exclude the very ones which will make the neighborhood diverse.
The physical layout and visual cues that make a neighborhood unique start with its form. The ideal structure of a neighborhood is composed of places to reside, work, shop, learn, and play. How these spaces are organized and relate to one another influences public health, cultural expression, environmental health, safety, and economic vitality.

It takes a community effort to build and maintain a successful neighborhood...
As much as I take exception to the previous plan paragraph, I can agree with this one. Today's suburban neighborhoods are not “reside and work” or “reside and shop”places. We Americans seem to desire to work and shop some distance from where we call home. It is that organization and relationship juxtaposition that has influenced our public health, environmental health and our economic vitality, and not for the better. As yet the community effort is not in it.

Interestingly enough, since the discussions leading up to the 2007 Plan, actions have led to a revision to the criteria used to “create Great Neighborhoods in newly developing or redeveloping areas”. In that same time frame, we have had a drastic recession and a slow, barely perceptible recovery. There are no real, newly developing or redeveloping areas to speak of but there are quite a few neighborhoods, built in the '60s and '70s, which could use some help to become Great Neighborhoods. Should we really have to wait until we have to redevelop the whole area? Why can't we do it over time, as the “model” neighborhoods did?

Place-making and walkability are important to the success of Lexington and its neighborhoods. They have been for the first ring subdivisions of the late 19th century and will be for the subdivisions of the early 21st , but what about all that came in between? Is there nothing to be done for them?

Fortunately, yes. I will look over those possibilities in the next week or so.

1 comment:

Mari Adkins said...

I've lived on Tates Creek since April 2005. I like to get out and walk and ride my bike - but there's just no where to do that here. And believe me, our city government knows exactly who I am. LOL