Moving around town: ‘Family’ amendments sent to council planning committee



Amendments to a housing plan that would change where UK students can live passed through the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government City Council Tuesday and is on its way to the Planning Committee.

For months the council has discussed the city zoning ordinance that defines “family” and determines what areas students can inhabit.

The council meeting came a day after Mayor Jim Newberry held a less formal meeting with presidents of neighborhood associations around UK, landlords, council members and Student Government Vice President Kelsey Hayes.

Newberry’s invitation-only group will meet again Wednesday to discuss the amendments the council passed. SG President Ryan Smith said he will attend the meeting to stay updated with the possible zoning changes.

Councilwoman Linda Gorton said the meeting would focus on four issues: vinyl boxes, grandfathering, the definition of family and licensing.

Rochelle Boland of the LFUCG law department answered questions from the council about amendments to the zoning ordinances. One of the suggestions was to combine and modify the definitions of boarding and lodging house. Boland said the current wording was unclear and led people to believe only one of the criteria had to be met for a house to be considered a lodging house.

“(It) made it sound as if a­­­­ny one of these factors was present — boom— that made it a lodging house,” Boland said. “I don’t think that was ever the intention. Because obviously one of these factors could be present even if it is a traditional family situation.”

The definition of family has remained unchanged since the 1960s, Boland said, but because of the national case law the term is now very broad and general. She said the proposed amendment would work for zoning laws and be reasonable when recognizing traditional and non-traditional family units.

Boland said there would be a set of five groups qualifying as family: a traditional family related by blood, marriage or adoption; four or fewer unrelated persons in a home; two unrelated persons and any children related to or under the care of them; exceptions under the fair housing act; or a functional family that could make their case before the Board of Adjustment.

Provisions for fraternity and sorority houses were discussed in the amendments, and the term “congregate living facility” was added to clear up some of the exceptions to the zoning ordinances.

Public comment was limited, but 3rd District Councilwoman Diane Lawless said the committee decided to pass the proposal to the full council so everyone in the community — permanent residents and students alike — could weigh in on it.

“We all pretty much agreed that it needed to go to the full council, it’s such a big issue … the full council can weigh in on it in a very public manner,” she said.

The proposal still has steps and changes to go through before it is passed into law, and the process will probably take between two to three months, she said.

Lawless said the proposal is about coming up with a solution good for the entire community.

“It is about making Lexington all it can be,” she said.