Lexington mayoral candidates spar over ‘smart growth’

March 10, 2010 | | Comments 5

By Andy Mead –

The “big hole” in the middle of Lexington that was cleared for the stalled CentrePointe project is the result of “failed leadership,” Vice Mayor Jim Gray said Wednesday.

His comment came at the beginning of a two-hour mayoral forum at the Lexington Public Library on Main Street, next door to the block where grass now grows.

Mayor Jim Newberry, the implied target of Gray’s remark, waited until near the end of the two-hour event before firing back.

He said that on Aug. 7, 2008, Gray announced that he planned to launch a task force to look into why the city allowed some of the buildings in the CentrePointe block to be neglected by their owners.

“It’s 580 days later and that hasn’t happened,” Newberry said.

It was the second meeting for the four people who want to be the city’s next mayor, and it followed what may become a pattern: Gray says Newberry is to blame for CentrePointe, Newberry said Gray has accomplished nothing, former Mayor Teresa Isaac talks about her accomplishments when she held the office, and technology consultant Skip Horine promises to reduce government and makes allegations about misbehavior by the police.

There were other questions, on topics as varied as ambulance charges, small business fees and jobs for ex-cons.
But it was expected that CentrePointe would be a frequent topic at something called the Smart Growth Mayoral Forum.

Last week, Mayor Charles P. Riley of Charleston, S.C. was at the library, speaking about “building and maintaining a livable city.” There was a lot of talk about preserving his city’s historic character.

This week, the candidates started out responding to what Riley had to say.

Gray led off, saying “if Joe Riley had been mayor of Lexington, we would not have a big hole in the center of the city.”

Isaac said that to avoid a repeat of CentrePointe, she would put an architect on the Courthouse Area Design Review Board.

“That’s a common-sense thing we probably should add,” she said.

Later, in response to a question about whether the candidates would be a “hands-on” mayor like Riley, Isaac said she was very hands-on when she held the office but added that “you have to be careful not to send a message that the city doesn’t welcome investment.”

Newberry showed a map of downtown and talked about several projects, from the restoration of the Lyric Theater to the new Lexington Farmer’s Market at Cheapside Park. He did not mention CentrePointe.

Later in the forum, just before criticizing Gray, Newberry defended replacing smaller older buildings with taller new ones.

“If we’re going to maintain this notion of an Urban Service Area for another 100 years … it’s vitally important for us to make the urban core as dense we effectively can in order to preserve farmland,” Newberry said.

The forum was sponsored by the Gaines Center for the Humanities at the University of Kentucky. Gray is on the center’s board, but Colleen Horne, an administrative assistant for the center, said the board has no role in planning programs such as the forum.

Robert Rabel, the center’s director, began the forum by noting Gray’s position with the center. He said that both Isaac and Newberry had done readings at center events.

The primary election, which will narrow the field to two candidates, is May 18.

Did you miss Wednesday night’s Smart Growth Mayoral Forum? Watch a video here.

Filed Under: ElectionsJim GrayLexington GovernmentMayor's race

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  1. yeah right says:

    Not that I want to defend Mr Nonewberries, but if I am not mistaken, Mr Gray was in a position to make a difference as he sat on the Council as Vice Mayor while the CenterPoint Development went thru the process and he did nothing positive to make a difference then. I guess he thought if it didnt work out he could use it as a campaign issue. Well Mr Gray, I for one hold you as responsible as the Mayor for what has happened there….

  2. latentcontent says:

    I agree 100% with yeah right. I hear this “Had I been mayor” vibe coming from Gray. What exactly would/could he have done differently? I’m not taking sides, (yet) I simply want to know.

  3. s.smith says:

    Since the conception of LFUCG in the early 70s, the LFUCG has never adhered to the Comprehensive Plan and thus: the LFUCG is incapable of managing ‘Smart Growth ‘. The number one question should be, ” Why are we paying people to be city planners when the Comprehensive Plan is constantly changed by zoning amendments ? ” Just look at all the historical buildings demolished for the two new courthouses and the neighborhoods demolished for University of Kentucky and Central Baptist Hospital.

  4. Buck Feshear says:

    Even if they don’t build anything back, the people of Lexington ought to be happy because that dump of a block was demolished.

  5. mark says:

    You know what? That center point block was an eyesore for our community. Many citizens are happy to see it an empty block instead of the eyesore it was with those junky buildings. Gray is jealous he wasn’t involved in the construction phase of this new building since it was such a large project. Wake up Lexington, this is about money. Gray Construction didn’t get the job. If they did, Gray would be the Webb’s biggest cheerleader. It’s not politics, it’s about MONEY!