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FAQS on the Placebuilder

Since you asked...

Why is the placebuilder so long?

The Placebuilder simplifies the application process by summarizing the applicable policies for a development proposal into two pages.  Rather than having to comb through the entire plan to find out what applies to a specific development, the discussion points are already highlighted for the benefit of the applicants, the Planning Commission, the staff, and the surrounding neighbors.

When Does it apply?

The Placebuilder applies to zone change applications.

How will The Placebuilder deal with small infill parcels?

Neighborhood voices expressed a desire for more stringent restrictions on smaller parcels to protect against incompatible adjacent development, while development interests conveyed a concern that applying The Placebuilder to smaller sites would limit infill development feasibility.  The Placebuilder is designed to be flexible and applicable to a wide range of parcels and contexts.  Applicants will likely not be able to meet all development criteria on all sites – especially those with lot size restrictions or other similar constraints.  Where development criteria are not feasible, it is up to the applicant to make the case that they do not apply.

Is it a checklist? Are applicants required to meet every single criterion?

No, and no.  Again, every site is different, each with their own opportunities, constraints, and challenges.  The criteria within are meant to catalyze conversations about how proposals further the policies and concepts throughout the plan.  It is not a mandatory list to be met on all developments. The Placebuilder is meant to hone the salient issues for a site in order to facilitate development that meets the needs of the full community, as well as providing context-sensitive projects that enhance the surrounding neighborhood. 

Will applicants be required to submit lengthy written justifications for every criteria?

No.  The application of the concepts on the proposed plan is of primary concern.  Some criteria can be addressed in batches in notes referring to specific portions of the development plan.  The justifications are most important when an applicant feels they are unable to meet a specific criterion.

Will applicants be required to submit detailed renderings of proposals?

No.  The criteria in The Placebuilder are directed at site layout and design.  Staff will not require additional architectural or design renderings at the time of submission, though they are certainly permitted.

How will justifications & development plans change?

Under previous Comprehensive Plans, justifications generally addressed broad Goals & Objectives, without much support from the remainder of the document.  Under The Placebuilder, justifications and development plans will be reviewed in accordance with the policies of the plan, which provide more specific guidance on how to further the Goals & Objectives.

How will developments be classified into Place-Types?

Place-Type summary pages include descriptions, priorities, recommended zones, and example imagery.  This is meant to provide guidance on which Place-Type to apply.  It is possible that there may be some overlap between the types (Corridor & Regional Center for example), and it is up to the applicant to make the case for which they choose.  The pre-application meeting with Planning staff can provide guidance on this front.

The neighborhoods think The Placebuilder is not stringent enough, and the development community thinks it’s too restrictive!

Lexington is a growing city, and development is important to provide housing, jobs, goods, and services for current and future residents.  It is also important that this growth results in a cohesive community through enhancing the existing neighborhoods, and providing enriched quality of life for all.  The Placebuilder creates transparency surrounding the policies and concepts found throughout the Comprehensive Plan on an individual plan level.  This transparency is needed to create a middle ground, and an avenue for conversations among all stakeholders.

What about the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations?

The Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations are the laws that must be followed regarding land use in Lexington.  If site-specific conflicts arise between The Placebuilder and these laws, the laws will prevail.  Conflicts found between the laws and the goals and aspirations of the Comprehensive Plan may be addressed through a public process to amend the laws to meet Imagine Lexington’s vision.

What about single-family housing?

Single-family detached houses are an important part of Lexington’s neighborhoods and will continue to be.  The Placebuilder does not prohibit single-family housing, even includes criteria that address and enhance it, but notes that as the city continues to urbanize, single-family housing may take on a different form and represent a smaller percentage of the new construction.  Currently 61.2% of all units in Lexington are single-family detached, and another 6.3% are single-family attached.  

Will this make the zone change process more contentious?

Proposed development always brings about concerns from nearby neighbors, and inevitably questions and issues will arise.  The Placebuilder is designed to focus these conversations so they can be more productive and centered on furthering the Goals, Objectives, and policies of Imagine Lexington, reducing spurious or emotion-driven arguments on all sides.

Is the placebuilder legal?

Yes.  The Placebuilder is simply a summary of the elements permitted in state statute KRS 100, that provides additional clarity on what the Comprehensive Plan is trying to achieve.  It is not mandatory, but an aspirational compilation of best practices.  Further, it addresses Theme F, Goal 2, Objective C (“Develop criteria, based upon the goals and objectives, to guide zone map amendment decisions.”) that was unanimously approved by the Urban County Council in November 2017.

Will there be opportunities to learn more?

Absolutely!  The Planning staff has committed to an “Action Item” in Theme F, Accountability Policy #3 that calls for a workshop and training for any interested parties on The Placebuilder, and ongoing community education on both the Comprehensive Plan and The Placebuilder.

What do the Criteria Mean?

The Placebuilder criteria are a direct distillation of the policies within Imagine Lexington, which are rooted within the Goals and Objectives determined by the community. To show this relationship, each criterion is represented by a code that links it back to the associated policy. As shown in the key below, each pillar is abbreviated two letters and is associated with both the theme and policy number for the respective criteria. There is an example provided for additional clarity.


Theme A

Growing Successful Neighborhoods

Design (DS)
Density (DN)
Equity (EQ)
Theme B

Protecting the Environment

Protection (PR)
Sustainability (SU)
Restoration (RE)
Theme C

Creating Jobs & Prosperity

Livability (LI)
Diversity (DI)
Prosperity (PS)
Theme D

Improving a Desirable Community

Connectivity (CO)
Placemaking (PL)
Support (SP)
Theme E

Urban & Rural Balance

Accountability (AC)
Stewardship (ST)
Growth (GR)

Definitions for the Placebuilder

Activate / Activated

To activate a space means to intentionally provide and arrange engaging amenities for a specific user group or the broader community. Spaces are activated through built form, planned uses, and community engagement. For example, activated environments are designed and built to garner a sense of civic pride, planned uses such as retail located on the first floor of a building or parking structure attract people, and permanent or temporary community collaboration measures, varying from art installations to pop-up markets, provide engagement.

Adaptive Reuse

The process of adapting abandoned, vacant or underutilized buildings and structures for new purposes, which amounts to a change in the structure’s primary purpose, a significant change in the way in which the structure is incorporated into and operates within the exterior environment, or which incorporates a nontraditional yet compatible combination of purposes or uses within the site plan. The adaptive reuse should incorporate changes that rejuvenate and/or increase the sustainability of the site and/or neighborhood while retaining historic features of the original building(s) and/or structure(s). LFUCG Zoning Ordinance; Article 1 (Amended through September, 2018)

Context Sensitive Development (CSD)

Context Sensitive Development (CSD) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to developing projects that involve the public and affected agencies early and continuously to ensure that projects meet the needs of the users, the neighboring communities, and the environment. CSD integrates projects into the context or setting in a sensitive manner through careful planning, consideration of different perspectives, and tailoring designs to particular project circumstances. This could include, among other considerations, compatibility with scale, massing, and height step-downs between existing and proposed buildings, but does not necessarily infer replicating adjacent development characteristics.

Environmentally Sensitive Areas

Any area which, due to its natural or physical setting, may have environmental problems with regard to development. Areas included are (but are not limited to) areas of steep slope (over 15%), floodplains, sinkholes, areas of poor soil, improper fills, wetlands, any significant tree or significant tree stands, aquifer recharge areas, and similar areas. LFUCG Land Subdivision Regulations; Article 1 (updated Jan 2020)

Experiential Retail (ER)

Experiential Retail (ER) is a type of marketing that shifts focus from the “functional features-and-benefits” of products to a focus on customer experiences. ER takes into account shifting trends due to the rise of online retail shopping. By creating a more immersive retail experience, where services, activities, and ambiance are offered in addition to merchandise, ER attracts people to stores and ensures they leave not just with products but also memories.

Green Infrastructure

Infrastructure and stormwater control design approaches and technologies that mimic the natural hydrologic cycle processes of rainfall infiltration, evapotranspiration and reuse. LFUCG Land Subdivision Regulations; Article 1 (updated March 2017)

Neighborhood Focal Point

A Neighborhood Focal Point is a hub-like setting that is accessible to a large number of people in a geographical area. In urban areas, they often function as compact, easily walkable nodes for eating, drinking, socializing, and the selling of goods and services. School sites, parks, libraries, and other types of community centers are also examples of Neighborhood Focal Points.

Screen / Screened

The use of landscaping and vegetation or structures such as walls and berms to conceal or reduce the potentially adverse visual and aural impacts of certain land uses or activities of adjoining, dissimilar land uses.

Single-Loaded Streets

A single-loaded street is a roadway that provides access to private property on one side and public access to an amenity, such as a park or school site, on the other side. 

Stub Street

Stub streets are local or collector, closed-end streets that are only acceptable as a temporary street condition. Stubs are similar to cul-de-sacs except that they provide no turnaround circle at their closed end. Stub streets shall only be used when a future continuation is planned. LFUCG Land Subdivision Regulations; Article 1 (updated March 2017)

Vertical Edge

In roadway design, a vertical edge is a visual traffic calming device which may include street trees, buildings, or other vertical design elements within drivers’ field of vision along roadways.