Lexington council delays vote on land swap as neighbors voice concerns

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Lexington leaders pushed back a vote Thursday on a proposed land swap with the state, delaying for a week the first reading of a controversial resolution that would make Cooper Drive a state-owned road.

A big crowd from the Montclair neighborhood attended Thursday's Lexington Urban County Council meeting to oppose the proposed swap, voicing their concerns about Cooper Drive possibly becoming the new state highway 1974.

"This will destroy our neighborhood," one man said. "Absolutely destroy it."

The potential trade is part of a proposal that would give the city control of several state roads, including Parkers Mill; South Forbes; Euclid Avenue/Avenue of Champions (for a planned streetscape project); and Jefferson Street, for the planned demolition of the bridge there for the convention center and Town Branch Commons project.

Neighbors say they received little to no notice about the proposal and are worried about its impact. Their biggest stated concerns at the meeting: increased traffic on the road; pedestrian safety; and future widening of the road.

"We felt like we were blindsided," one neighbor said.

Dowell Hoskins-Squier, the city's environmental quality and public works commissioner, said on the whole, the swap makes sense for the city. She, as well as several council members and the mayor, tried to reassure neighbors at the meeting Thursday night.

"Cooper Drive will not be widened," said Hoskins-Squier. "There are no plans to widen Cooper Drive. There are no plans to cut down any trees, except, of course, if they're dead."

Hoskins-Squier also said traffic patterns on the road will not change just because it is owned by the state.

"'The only difference will be who pays for the blacktop,'" said Mayor Jim Gray, echoing a statement he said someone else shared at a previous meeting about the issue. "That's what I heard."

But neighbors say they are upset that no impact study has been done and no alternate routes have been explored. They want to know why Alumni Drive - which connects the same two roads Cooper Drive does - cannot be part of the swap instead. One neighbor called it an "obvious alternative."

City leaders said they have talked on multiple occasions to the University of Kentucky, which owns part of Alumni Drive, and that it does not appear that UK is willing to relinquish its ownership of the road to the state.

Some council members, chiefly Richard Moloney, one of the city's at-large council members, expressed their concerns about the proposal.

"I don't think any of these streets should be in the state's hands right now because it's residential," he said.

City leaders say the swap would reduce the city's maintenance responsibility for paving and snow removal, because they would be exchanging about 20 miles of roads for about 15. They would also transfer five bridges to the state (four on Citation and one on Virginia).

First reading of the resolution to authorize the swap was scheduled for Thursday, but council agreed to delay it. First reading is now scheduled for November 16.

See more updates from the meeting here.



 
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