By Cory Smith
Lexington’s City Council voted unanimously Nov. 7 to accept Lexington’s Downtown Enhancement Plan.
But council members themselves don’t appear to be sure what they mean by “accept.”
At the Nov. 7 council meeting, some members balked at endorsing the entire plan, which led to the vote to “accept” it.
Almost two years after council members first mentioned a plan to improve the heart of the city, the Planning Commission endorsed the plan Oct. 24 and passed it on to City Council.
Council members made clear at their meeting that they did not have to like every part of the plan.
“Not every citizen, not everyone on this council feels the same way about each element of the plan,” Council Member George Pryde said. “I feel much more comfortable making the decision to accept the plan, recognizing that what that means is it’s now in our court to move ahead with it. It’s time to move ahead with the plan.”
City Council will now schedule work sessions and more public hearings regarding the plan and its individual components. The goal of those sessions is to determine which parts of the plan will be given priority, City Manager Jon Ellestad said.
By accepting the plan instead of fully endorsing it, City Council believes it can move forward with a concept to help shape ideas for renovating downtown Lexington.
“This is a plan that we can take on and use to guide how we want to improve the vitality and economic viability of our downtown business district,” Council Member Chuck Smith said at the Nov. 7 meeting. “Of course, the recommendations merit further discussion, and I feel strongly we do need to discuss those,” Smith said, “but until we really take this plan on as a point of the compass to steer to, we are sort of making this up as we go along.”
Director of Planning and Development Michael Zehner, project consultant Ashley Cooper and Steering Committee member Beth Knapp all argued for the plan at the council meeting. Knapp urged council to endorse it.
“Currently, there is tremendous momentum in downtown,” Knapp said. “Let’s not derail or slow down this locomotive.”
Zehner made clear to council members that they do not have to act immediately on any of the ideas in the plan, and that the council has the power to change ideas in it. City officials estimate the improvements would cost about $4 million if the entire plan is implemented.
“This is a living document,” Zehner said. “It can be changed as priorities change, as resources change, as circumstances change. Case in point, the Planning Commission added a 26th item.”
The 26th idea added to the plan addresses parking problems downtown. The idea calls for “improved utilization of the McCrum’s and National Wholesale parking areas.” That includes areas bounded by Jefferson, Washington, Lee and Nelson streets.
What was advertised as the final version of the plan was presented at a public forum at Lylburn Downing Middle School Sept. 30. Citizens said they liked about “90 percent” of the plan, but questions were raised about the costs of the project and whether the city would have to raise taxes to implement it.
City officials think grant funding will be available to pay for some of the ideas.
To find out more about the plan and view the latest version, go to