Country Custodians

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Dan Dickson

Fayette Alliance keeps a sharp eye on issues that threaten the Bluegrass quality of life

Knox van Nagell (left), Fayette Alliance executive director, and Don Robinson, chair of the Fayette Alliance board of directors. PHOTO BY EMILY MOSELEY

In 2006, several leaders in agriculture, business, development and neighborhood associations got together and agreed that they needed to better answer the question of not whether Fayette County would grow, but how would it grow?

“Can we do it in a way that leverages the best of what Fayette County has to offer,” asks Knox van Nagell, director of Fayette Alliance, the organization that emerged from that exercise in community soul-searching.

Van Nagell says that six years ago there was no organization whose sole mission was to monitor growth and land-use policy at city hall.

“We feel that if we can advance a vibrant city connected to and balanced with our productive and unique Bluegrass farmland, then it’s a win-win and we will have created a world-class city and landscape,” said van Nagell, an attorney by trade who grew up on a cattle and row crop farm in eastern Fayette County, property that’s been in her family for over 200 years.

Fayette Alliance, a nonprofit 501 (c)(4) corporation independent of LFUCG, is a coalition of citizens dedicated to achieving sustainable growth in Fayette County through land-use advocacy, education and promotion.

The group advocates preserving Fayette County farmland, advancing innovative development and improving infrastructure for the collective success of Lexington. “If we do those things well, then we’ll create a vibrant city with a matchless rural landscape,” van Nagell said.

As an organization, Fayette Alliance claims to have worked with Lexington Fayette Urban County Government to usher some 60 major land-use policies onto the books while attempting to balance seemingly competing interests.

According to Fayette Alliance, Lexington lost more than 19,000 acres of agricultural land between 1997 and 2002 and was named as one of the most endangered cultural landscapes in the world by the World Monuments Fund.

But Fayette Alliance also urges in-fill within the city. It estimates there are 12,000 acres of underused and blighted land inside the city that could potentially be redeveloped to accommodate the city’s future growth needs.

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