How to Become an Urban Planner in Kentucky

Kentucky MapA study conducted by American Farmland Trust found that Kentucky lost 791,000 acres of farmland between 1992 and 2012. Almost forty percent of that loss was due to urban expansion and suburban sprawl. A whopping 63 percent of the loss, however, was because of individual homes that were built on lots ranging from two to ten acres, mainly in rural areas of Kentucky. This is called low-density rural development, and it is an issue not only in Kentucky but nationwide.

This loss has prompted many Kentucky jurisdictions to revise land use laws. For example, in 1999 the Urban County Council in Fayette County (which lost 4700 acres to ten-acre lots between 1990 and 1997) increased the minimum lot size outside the Urban Services Boundary to 40 acres.

More people are moving into Kentucky’s urban areas. Northern Kentucky, for example, has 386,000 total residents, but most are concentrated in Florence, Newport and Covington. Many of these urban areas have placed a new focus on walkability, or making their cities more easily accessible to pedestrians. This not only helps with urban planning and development but also cuts down on environmental pollution.

If you would like to become an urban planner and help tackle these and many more dilemmas facing Kentucky, you need specific education, training and experience in order to obtain a job. Keep reading to discover how you can become an urban planner in Kentucky.

Salaries for Kentucky’s Urban Planners

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the United States Department of Labor, the annual median wage for urban planners in Kentucky, as of May 2019, was $52,450. Throughout the state, salaries can vary from this average, as noted below (some city statistics are from

  • Bowling Green – $55,237
  • Lexington – $57,706
  • Louisville – $51,850
  • Owensboro – $57,551
  • South Central nonmetro area – $36,750

Planning and Land Use Laws and Regulations in Kentucky

Chapter 100 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes authorizes local municipalities throughout the state to enact subdivision regulations and zoning ordinances. These regulations and ordinances may vary significantly from one county to the next. For example, in Fayette County, a property owner must have at least 40 acres of land before building a single-family home. In Jessamine County, a neighboring county, however, a single-family home can be built on just one acre.

To make matters even more confusing, Kentucky state law allows for multiple zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations within the same county. To cite an example, the afore-mentioned Jessamine County, with a population of just 3000, has separate zoning ordinances for land that is in the county of Jessamine, in the city limits of Wilmore and in the city limits of Nicholasville.

A total of 55 of Kentucky’s 120 counties do have countywide zoning laws that apply to the entire county. However, there are another 41 cities in Kentucky that have zoning laws and are located within counties which have not adopted countywide zoning laws. (As an interesting side note, Kentucky has the third-highest number of counties of any state, following Texas and Georgia).

Comprehensive Plans in Kentucky

If a community within Kentucky has zoning laws, it is required by state law to have a Comprehensive Plan. This Plan acts as a guide to the zoning and rezoning process as well as future development within that jurisdiction. Minimum elements that must be contained within a Comprehensive Plan in Kentucky include:

  • Statement of goals and objectives
  • Land use element
  • Transportation plan element
  • Community facilities element

Additional elements that may be included but are not mandated include community renewal, flood control, housing, conservation, pollution, historic preservation and natural resources.

Center for Land Use and Environmental Responsibility

The Center for Land Use and Environmental Responsibility (CLUER) was designed to research and recommend ideas and guidelines for governing Kentucky’s intersection of land use, environmental conservation, and water resources. They study problems that exist where these three ideas intersect, as well as governing institutions and the impact of their policies on marginalized communities. CLUER also works to engage the community and partner with government agencies in promoting environmental responsibility and responsible stewardship of human and natural environments.

Bluegrass Land Conservancy

The Bluegrass Land Conservancy exists to protect land within Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region through conservation easements that are permanent. The Bluegrass Region of Kentucky makes up the northern part of the state, bordered by the cities of Stanford, Richmond, Paris and Frankfort. It is rich in the natural resources of limestone, dolomite and shale. In 2006, the World Monuments Fund identified the Bluegrass Region as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world.

Education for Kentucky’s Urban Planners

Undergraduate Urban Planning Education in Kentucky

Your ultimate goal will be a graduate degree, but before you obtain that, you must attain your undergraduate degree in an urban planning-related area in Kentucky. It is always a good idea, if possible, to select a program that holds accreditation from the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) of the American Planning Association. Kentucky has no such accredited programs, however. Consider this program instead:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability – University of Louisville

Graduate Urban Planning Degree in Kentucky

You should pick an urban planning graduate degree program that is accredited through the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) of the American Planning Association. There is one such program in Kentucky:


  • University of Louisville – Master of Urban Planning

College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Urban & Public Affairs

426 W. Bloom St.

Louisville, KY 40208

Accreditation through December 31, 2021

David M. Simpson, Director



AICP Certification for Kentucky Urban Planners

American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP)

The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) is the sole independent verification of an urban planner’s qualifications available within the United States. AICP certification proves to would-be employers that your practice, professional conduct and ethical standards are of the highest quality. To gain this certification, take the certification test at Prometric test centers in Kentucky such as:

  • Florence – 500 Technology Way
  • Lexington – 2573 Richmond Road
  • Louisville – 2010 South First Street
  • Louisville – 7400 New La Grange Road

Maintenance of Your AICP Certification in Kentucky

The AICP mandates that you fulfill completion of 32 Certification Maintenance (CM) credits every 24 months. The American Planning Association- Kentucky website offers the Planning Webcast series, in which you can earn over 40 CM credits for free. Check it out at their website.

Alternate Options for Professional Certification for Kentucky Urban Planners

If you would like to pursue additional certification, options include:

Urban Planning Careers in Kentucky

Eminent Kentucky Urban Planning Projects

Outstanding urban planning projects in Kentucky have included:

  • Bellevue re-development
  • Waterfront Botanical Gardens in Louisville
  • East End development in Louisville
  • Milton, KY to Madison, IN bridge

Urban Planning Internships in Kentucky

If your college urban planning program does not offer you the opportunity to complete an internship, you may wish to seek out your own. Examples of urban planning internships that have occurred in Kentucky include:

  • Planning, Zoning & Historic Preservation Intern – City of Covington
  • Urban Design Summer Intern – Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP, Wellington
  • Planning Intern – Brandstetter Carroll, Inc., Lexington

Public Sector Urban Planning Opportunities in Kentucky

Want to work in Kentucky’s public sector, for state, local or federal government agencies? Examples of opportunities in Kentucky’s public sector for urban planners include, but are not limited to:

  • Associate/Principal Planner- Planning and Development Services of Kenton County
  • Transportation Planner Supervisor – Louisville Metro Government
  • Planning Technician – Louisville Metro Government
  • Community Planner – U.S. Navy, Louisville

Private Sector Urban Planning Opportunities in Kentucky

Working within Kentucky’s private sector might include opportunities like:

  • Project Planner – Fischer Homes, Erlanger
  • Director of Urban Infill – Fischer Homes, Erlanger
  • Transportation Planner – AECOM, Louisville
  • Transportation Planner- Stantec, Lexington

Real Estate and Urban Planning Forecast in Kentucky

In 2017, the Kentucky real estate market set new sales records, especially in housing, selling over 53,000 units. The housing market in Louisville was and continues to be especially competitive. In Kentucky, the median home price is much lower than many other states, at just $240,500, making affordability less of a problem. If Kentucky’s real estate market continues to remain strong, as it appears to be, urban planners should have no problems finding fulfilling work within the state.

More Urban Planning Resources in Kentucky