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Gentrification, Colonizers, and Affordable Housing in Lexington, KY

As Lexington engages in conversations across the city to address the lack of affordable housing in this city, it is of utmost importance we gain an understanding of how we arrived at this present moment.

Throughout this week, various community groups and organizations will host “On the Table” conversations about affordable housing to gather community input for the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan contains the guiding policies for Lexington’s development.

What Must Be Changed in the Comprehensive Plan

Changes to the city’s Comprehensive Plan must include two things if we are to improve affordable housing options in this city:

A) Expand the Urban Service Boundary

Currently, the Urban Service Boundary does not allow Lexington to grow beyond inner city limits. If we are to address the affordable housing crisis, we MUST expand this Boundary limiting growth of this city. Over half of the land in Lexington cannot currently be used to expand affordable housing. The image below depicts the urban service boundary.

B) Stop Infill and Redevelopment

The city’s current Comprehensive Plan has only one option for how to develop the city further. It is called “Infill and Redevelopment.” Current examples of this include The MET on Midland and Third St and Arlington Loft Apartments on North Limestone. Both of these complexes are directly contributing to the increased rents and displacement of gentrification in East End and Brucetown (both historically Black communities dating back to the end of the Civil War.

Arlington Loft Apartments were built with $1 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Yet, the units were built too small to qualify under HUD guidelines. The developer, Bruce Nicol, obtained a waiver for the insufficient square footage. The apartments rent for hundreds of dollars more than originally agreed upon. It offers no affordable housing options for families.

The MET at Midland and Third offers 1 and 2 bedroom apartments for rent well above an affordable price, leaving them inaccessible to displaced families.

C) Complete an audit of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Fayette Alliance #TheLightofTruth

1) Fayette Alliance is a lobbyist organization that puts millions in the hands of already wealthy individuals owning farmland in Lexington/Fayette County through its administration of the Property Development Rights (PDR) program.

2) Fayette Alliance continues to contribute to the displacement and marginalization of gentrification in its administration of the PDR program, failing a city audit.

3) Fayette Alliance is attempting to push their agenda onto the most disenfranchised communities. Their agenda supports the interests of the wealthy and will do nothing to address the affordable housing crisis.

4) Fayette Alliance’s board consists of Griffin VanMeter the colonizer, developers, and white people with generational wealth built from the exploitation of BIPOC in Lexington. Their interests do not align with the interests of the people being exploited by them.

History of the Colonizers: The Vanmeter Family

If we are to develop an informed understanding of how we arrived at this point in our city, where families going back generations can no longer find affordable housing in this city, we have to start at the beginning.

The VanMeter family history extends back to the days of Daniel Boone when Indigenous people were murdered to make way for the greed and destruction of nonmelinated Europeans on this land. This is important because Griffin VanMeter is THE colonizer of the Brucetown/North Limestone Neighborhood. He has worked with his country club cronies connected to the local power structure to exploit the neighborhood and capitalize on its displacement under the guise of NoLi CDC. In addition to stealing land and wealth traced back to the beginnings of this state, the VanMeter family maintains its fortune of stolen riches through involvement in the local horse industry – taken from Black Lexingtonians in the early 1900s.

The Beginning of the End of Affordable Housing

Griffin VanMeter moved to the North Limestone area in 2005 and began to pave the road to hell for black and brown residents with his good intentions grounded in the colonizing roots of gentrification aka new age colonialism.

Because the VanMeter’s have long established money and the power that comes along with it, it is no coincidence that local policy has been crafted to hand out money and resources to developers aka colonizers for the gentrification of the North Limestone area, Coolavin area, and East End.

In 2006, the LFUCC (Lexington Fayette Urban County Council) gave out grants for water quality improvement. It was during this time that the name/term NoLi was born (per Griffin VanMeter).

The city creates a Comprehensive Plan that dictates development in Lexington. The 2007 Comprehensive Plan was amended in 2009 to include the Central Sector Small Area Plan that wrote into policy the displacement and hoarding of resources of black and brown communities throughout this central sector area. Andrea James was a council member at this time, and was granted a seat on the steering committee. I have attached a screenshot of all contributing people involved in this Central Sector Plan. (SEE BELOW)

In 2008, Griffin VanMeter formed BullHorn LLC – a branding company. A recommendation of the Central Sector Plan included renaming and rebranding the areas being gentrified/colonized to improve public image. (Screenshots provided below).

This Central Sector Small Area Plan, completed as an amendment, specifically served the political and policy needs of white people with generational wealth (members of the good old boy network) in this town. One of the recommendations of this plan was to start a Community Development Corporations (CDC). (screenshots below). Within 2 years, in 2011 Common Good Community Development Corporation was founded at Embrace Church. By 2013, Griffin Vanmeter filed with the state to form NoLi CDC .

History of NoLi CDC

The founders of NoLi CDC were Griffin VanMeter, Price Bell, Richard Young, and Price Nicol.
****Price Nicol is the brother of Bruce Nicol. Bruce Nicol is the developer that would eventually buy the land from Embrace Church to begin building the Arlington Loft Apartments (mentioned previously) with a loan from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

NoLi CDC has had several names under which they have operated to gentrify thr North Limestone Neighborhood.

NoLi Corporate Development Company filed Articles of Incorporation on 1/15/2013, voted to dissolve the organization on 1/15/13. The document for dissolution was signed by Griffin VanMeter in April 2013, and filed with the Secretary of State on 8/9/2013. The first property acquired by this entity was on 8/15/2013. NoLi CDC Corporation filed Articles of Incorporation on 1/18/2013. The official name change was not filed with the Secretary of State until 7/13/2016 and was adopted by the organization on 7/11/2016.

On March 19, 2014, Bruce Nicol submitted an application for a zone change regarding the building of Arlington Loft Apartments. On December 18, 2014, the Urban County Planning Commission held a public hearing regarding this zone change request. Community members were silenced through limiting total input to 30 minutes and not allowing the sharing of time as done in other council/committee meetings.

Residents spoke to how the developer requesting this zone change made “deliberate efforts to minimize and marginalize” community members involvement in the development process. NoLi CDC has direct dealings with this process through their Community Initiatives Collective which was set up to foster community conversation and empowerment with the developers. It should be noted that the apartments being built by this developer were originally supposed to range in price
from $400 to $900/month. That number has now changed to $500 to $700/month. The developer received a loan from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for this development yet has been on record saying they will not accept housing vouchers.

There are communities being displaced by this gentrification. Specifically, a mobile home park with many undocumented families and Brucetown, a historically black community dating back over a century. NoLi now holds over $1 million in assets through acquired properties and a large sum of money in grants. Their mission states that they exist to connect the community with resources. Yet, obviously they have siphoned resources from the community to ultimately displace them.

EMBRACE CHURCH HISTORY

The story of Embrace United Methodist Church (listed a variety of ways throughout the supporting documentation of this truth telling). It begins with Rosario Picardo. Picardo who became involved with La Roca/The Rock church as a custodian, eventually becoming the associate pastor at the church. He was appointed by the United Methodist Church as a “church planter” in 2008. He began Embrace Church at the Kentucky Theater, during which time he was ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church.
The United Methodist church has been a driving force of the new ago colonialism still using religion and the church as a means and a mode for its perpetrations of displacement and exploitation. Many people have defended the Gallahers as being against much of what has transpired that has left the church complicit in a new age form of Manifest Destiny. It should be noted that John Gallaher did not become pastor of Embrace until 2014 per the Common Good CDC website. This was during the time that land on each side of the church was sold to Bruce Nicol of Nicol Development now building the Arlington Lofts. Many are saying this deal was set into motion by Rosario Picardo and not John Gallaher. (I do not know this for certain.) The church sold the land, per the PVA website on September 13, 2015.
Picardo has a book that he wrote about the “church planting” ordained by the United Methodist Church entitled “Embrace: A Church Plant that Broke All the Rules”. (Isn’t that ironic). He has a consulting group specifically for “church planters/pastors.” (screenshots provided).
Interesting discovery in conjunction with this root of truth telling is the involvement of Tom Eblen at the 2010 Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. In this document from the conference, Eblen is listed as the Director of New church and congregational development. On Common Good CDC’s website he is listed as a retired Methodist pastor. In the conference notes from 2010, Eblen reports about Embrace church being launched at the Kentucky Theater. The 2012 goal was to have 12 new congregations “planted.”

There is a second Tom Eblen in Lexington who has written for the Lexington Herald Leader for years. Eblen’s blog published several stories about “development” painted in a light of good intention while leaving out any analysis of impact..
Obviously, there is must more to discuss and much more truth telling to be done. I have only scratched the surface of connecting the dots of those complicit in the displacement of black and brown communities in Lexington, KY.
Ida B Wells says, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth on them.” She did this using white peoples accounts as I have done with this truth telling. Stay tuned…..

More research from 2019 on the colonizers:
Some have stated that I have been too hard on Griffin the Colonizer aka Griffin Vanmeter, former director of NoLi CDC – but when I began to dig deeper into Fayette Alliance and the PDR Program that function to keep millions of dollars in the pockets of already affluent ppl while bending or ignoring local ordinances set forth for administration – I come across the colonizer’s name TWICE!!!

Griffin VanMeter received payment to his business Bullhorn for completing a “specific project” related to the Rural Land Management Board AND he is listed as a “director” of Fayette Alliance on the 2016 990 tax form.

Equity Audit of NoLi CDC: Equity Audit of NoLi CDC

Additional info inserted from social media posts:

Combine all this fuckery with the fact that the developer who bought the LexTran building (that NoLi CDC was supposed to purchase with a $550,000 grant – Chad Needham – NOW SITS ON THE COMMITEE THAT APPROVES ZONE CHANGES!!!!

egarding NoLi CDC :
Nicol Development that bought the land from Embrace Epworth Campus to build the Arlington Lofts with a loan from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (a product of a coalition of black, white, and brown church congregations working to address issues in our community). It was stated publicly that the developer would not accept Section 8 vouchers. After the recent truth telling, the develop supposedly received a waiver to accept vouchers being that the units he is constructing will be too small to meet the size requirements of properties that accept housing vouchers.
It should be noted that the apartments being built are studio and one bedroom, so even if the displaced families of the adjacent trailer park were lucky enough to acquire a housing voucher, the displaced families could not find housing in these apartments.
It should also be noted that the lawyer listed as an organizer on the Sec. of State website is Douglas P Romaine. This SOB is obviously connected being a tax lawyer who functions to help the rich, old money who maintain the current power structure in this town escape accountability and responsibility. This lawyer is listed on the Sec of State documents for

  • Society for Arabian Horses in the Bluegrass Area
    -Simmental Breeders Sweepstakes, Inc
    -National Show Horse Registry Foundation, Inc.
    -United Professional Horsemen’s Association
    -Pinnacle Development
    -Kentucky Petroleum Supply, LLC
    -Petroleum Soluctions, LLC
    -Oil Liquidating, LLC
    -Ivywood Farm, LLC
    -Indian Creek Farm
    -The Kentucky Center for Oral & Maxillofacial Surger Partners, LLC ***(POSSIBLE CONNECTION TO THE NICOL THAT IS A DENTIST AND THE NICOL’S THAT ARE DEVELOPERS
    -.Sycamore Farm, LLC
    -Springhouse Stables, LLC
    -Claiborne Farm
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