UPDATE: City, KU reach agreement that puts court action on trees on hold

KU will suspend tree removal until January at least. Diane Atchison, who has organize protests against the Lansdowne Drive tree cutting, spoke out at the Urban County Council meeting Thursday.

UPDATED STORY POSTED THURSDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2021 AT 10:45 P.M.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The City of Lexington has reached a new compromise with Kentucky Utilities over the company’s controversial tree cutting practices.

KU agreed not to cut any more trees until at least mid-January. In return, the city is putting its court motion for a temporary injunction against KU on hold.

Diane Atchison, who has organized protests against the Lansdowne Drive tree cutting, spoke out at the Urban County Council meeting.

“Today, over half the trees on Lansdowne Drive have been cut to the ground and the stumps ground. This could have been prevented had earlier action been taken,” said Atchison.

Atchison also says cutting the trees in the area, among other issues, decreases property value and deters wildlife, criticizing the way Kentucky Utilities notified people in the area of the tree cutting.

“The multitude of issues never addressed is long. Increased storm water runoff, flooding, erosion, loss of wildlife habitat, loss of property values. Not to mention the vague letters Kentucky Utilities has sent to residents never saying their true intent….it’s secretive and it’s deceptive,” said Atchison.

People in the Lansdowne community have organized a Change.org petition, which can be viewed here.

The Council also gave first reading to a new contract with Waste Services of the Bluegrass, the company that runs the landfill where the city’s garbage is taken. The contract would cost the city $2.1 million over three and a half years. The city could also have the option to re-bid the contract.

Councilmember James Brown shared concerns the Council has on the higher cost.

“I think we ought to be proactive about trying to figure out what we want to do. That’s already a significant increase in cost. If we have to maneuver really quick it has the potential to cost us more,” said Councilmember Brown.

The Council also gave first reading to re-drawn Urban County Council boundaries in a close 8 to 6 vote. There was also first reading to a proposal that would require bars and restaurants to obtain a permit from the city before offering outdoor seating.

Finally, after initially being excluded from bonus pay for city employees, the Council approved the extra pay for employees of the Office of the Fayette County Sheriff. The money is coming from the American Rescue Plan Act.

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED THURSDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2021, AT 8:21 P.M.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The City and Kentucky Utilities have reached a new agreement: after the removal of large trees on Lansdowne Drive, which was expected to be completed Thursday, KU will suspend removal of any trees until mid-January, at the soonest.

Meanwhile, a group of Lansdowne residents have started a change.org petition to try to address the issue beyond Lexington to an issue they say stretches to the entire KU service area. The group accused KU letters and communications as “deceptive,” among other things and the company of being unresponsive.

The group also said it is disappointed the city has not take action earlier once KU’s intentions became obvious.

Shame on you,” resident Diana Atchison told council members during comments Thursday night.

“Our city government needs to stand really strong in these legal proceedings with Kentucky Utilities,” she added.

“Kentucky Utilities cannot be trusted to do the right things,” she continued, noting legislation is being drafted to stop KU’s actions in the future.

The agreement comes after Mayor Linda Gorton conducted a curbside negotiation Wednesday with KU as it was preparing to clear cut all of the trees in the Lansdowne median. Gorton said the agreement is a first step victory for the City and for Lansdowne neighbors, who have protested the tree removal.

“I appreciate KU for listening yesterday, for extending the moratorium on cutting, and for agreeing to continue negotiations on an appropriate process that preserves our electrical grid and protects our trees going forward. I remain convinced that we can do both, and hope that this gives us an opportunity to find a new path,” Gorton said.

The City will put the Motion for Temporary Injunction it filed in court Thursday on hold to give the negotiations time to work, Gorton said.

“The motion to stop the tree-cutting will not be withdrawn. We can proceed with court action if necessary, and so can KU.”

In addition, KU and the City agreed that:

  • KU will perform the replanting it has already agreed to in the Lansdowne median.
  • KU will continue its vegetative management work on Richmond Road, as planned, and based on prior agreements with private residents in the area.
  • The city anticipates KU will honor previous commitments regarding replanting and beautification it has made in other neighborhoods.