Fayette County Purchase and Development Rights Program

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The Lexington Purchase and Development Rights Program was established in 2000 by the Fayette County Urban County Council. By adopting the ordinance, which, according to this Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, protect the county's tourism industry, reduce infrastructure spending, protect historic areas, and give the area a 'sense of place'. The program is headed by Billy Van Pelt.

Through the program, Fayette County has the ability to purchase easements on parcels of land from property owners. These easements will bar present and future owners from developing the land for non agricultural uses. The program has received over $29 million dollars in local, state, and federal funding. The program also receives $2-$2.4 million annually from the annual county budget [1]. The program was recognized as a best policy by the National League of Cities and was the subject of a case study.

Goals of the Program

  • In accordance with the Urban County Government Charter and the Rural Land Management Plan (adopted in 1999), the PDR program supports the integrity of the Full Urban Services District. Concentrating growth in an urban center reduces the cost of public services to local government.
  • To support the purpose of the Urban Service Boundary (adopted in 1958) as described in the Rural Land Management Plan.
  • Protect the agricultural, equine and tourism economies of Fayette County by conserving large areas of farm land.
  • Conserve and protect the natural, scenic, open space, historic and agricultural resources of rural Fayette County.
  • Use conservation easements to preserve 50,000 acres of rural Fayette County over the next 20 years.
  • Provide local, state and federal funding of $140 Million over 20 years.


A Board of Directors for the program has been established to ever see the programs implementation.

  • Farm Bureau (2 members)
  • KY Thoroughbred Association (2)
  • Land Conservation groups (1)
  • Realtors Association (1)
  • Homebuilders Association (1)
  • Neighborhood Council (1)
  • Historic Preservation (1)
  • Convention & Visitors Bureau (1)
  • Chamber of Commerce (1)
  • At-Large County Ag Agent (1)
  • At-Large NRCS representative (1)

Current members and associations can be viewed here.

Economic Effects

In the previously mentioned PowerPoint presentation, it was stated that the county's farms had receipts for $354 million dollars (page 7), in addition to over $875 million (page 24) from tourism. As such, the farms create a great number of jobs and taxes for the city. While these numbers are true, it should be noted that if farms are turned into homes, all of the revenue will not disappear-the farms will move to surrounding areas, still employing many of the same people that they presently do; and the construction industry will employ many workers as a result. In addition, tourists do not come to Lexington specifically for horses on farms-many come for things such as shopping, concerts, culture, Keeneland, and UK sporting events.

The program has been aimed to be pro-infill and not anti-growth since the city states it "Encourages planned growth within and along the Urban Service Area by establishing critical land masses in the Rural Service Area..." and "High standard of living and unique sense of place are attractive to prospective businesses and residents."(page 38 of PowerPoint). The program is also aimed at cutting city costs in infrastructure spending.

"Greenbelt Effect"

While there is no doubt that the county government wants to make Lexington a desirable place to live, work, and visit; there are certainly consequences for every action that the body takes. In London, England, for example, the government has banned development in a 'Green Belt' that extends around the city. This in effect, will constrict the supply of housing that can be developed, which artificially raises the price of existing homes in the city; as a result, London has some of the highest real estate prices in the country [2][3]. While there is presently no foreseeable shortage of land in Fayette County, is it really the shrewdest practice to effectively subsidize non-development and drive home prices up for future generations of Lexingtonians to have to deal with?

Goal.jpg Rather than.jpg


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [3]