Ashland Park: Preservation vs. Property Rights

Posted on
Robbie Clark

The neighborhood may soon be headed to historic district status, but not all residents want it

To protest the potential H-1 overlay in a section of Ashland Park, some homeowners have posted signs such as this in their yards.

Its homes were built in the early part of the 20th century. The neighborhood was named after the estate of Senator Henry Clay, whose descendants sold off part of it for residential development. Lexington’s Ashland Park was developed by the The Olmsted Brothers, a Massachusetts architectural company. The brothers were the sons of prominent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, a co-designer of New York City’s famed Central Park.

This charming neighborhood boasts many architectural styles including American Foursquare, American Craftsman, Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Preservation of these unique properties is a key to this neighborhood; few would disagree with this. However, some residents want to take that idea a step further and have been advocating for an H-1 overlay, or historic zoning, on part of the Ashland Park neighborhood. H-1 zoning is designed to protect and preserve structures and sites of historic, cultural and architectural importance in Lexington and Fayette County.

The area under consideration for H-1 is bounded by properties on South Hanover Avenue and Desha Road on the northwest and southeast and Richmond Road and Fontaine Road on the northeast and southwest, according to the designation report issued by the Lexington Division of Historic Preservation.

“This is one of the most historic areas in the city, perhaps the most historic,” said Tony Chamblin, former president of the Ashland Park Neighborhood Association and a current board member. “The whole neighborhood has been on the National Register of Historic Places. (Approval) seems logical to me – a slam dunk for anyone interested in maintaining the historical legacy of that neighborhood.”

If approved, this part of Ashland Park would become the city’s 15th historic district.

Earlier this year, the Ashland Park Neighborhood Association board voted 13-0 in favor of making an application for the H-1 designation. Numerous meetings were held to discuss the issue. The Lexington Planning Commission sent out postcard surveys to all residents living in the impact zone. Of those residents that returned surveys, about 75 percent favored the new designation. On Oct. 24, the Planning Commission voted 7-4 in favor of the designation. The issue now goes to the Urban County Council, which has 90 days after the commission’s decision to make a final vote.

Chamblin and others believe the historic designation would safely preserve the neighborhood’s special place in the history of Lexington.

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