Members of the Louisville Metro Council have introduced an emergency ordinance to spend $1.5 million to salvage the historic Whiskey Row buildings and are considering suspending council rules to allow a vote Thursday.
The sponsors of the bill say Mayor Greg Fischer has promised a memorandum of understanding to explain the deal before voting, but some city lawmakers worry the council is rushing to pass a bill before seeing any details of the development agreement first.
Minutes before Fischer announced a plan to save the 19th Century buildings, the mayor’s office sought bipartisan support for the legislation, but balked when asked to show specifics of the contract.
Councilman Glen Stuckel, R-17, says the Fischer administration would not share any contents of the deal made between Metro Government, businessman Todd Blue and a group of local investors, who have agreed to purchase four of the seven buildings for $4.8 million.
“The details are pretty important,” says Stuckel. “The word I got from the mayor’s office was that I would probably be able to see the ordinance on Thursday morning. They’d have it ready by then. And I asked if it would contain the details and they said, ‘well, pretty much the details are what’s printed in the paper’ and I said I’d like to read it first.”
The mayor’s office was unavailable for comment, but sources in City Hall say the entire development agreement won’t be completed for at least a couple weeks.
On Monday, developers of the 21C Museum-Hotel Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, along with several anonymous investors announced they will purchase four of the seven buildings for $4.8 million. The new buyers have 60 days to close a deal with Blue, who currently owns all seven buildings along Main Street.
According to the city, Blue will donate an additional building and retain two for himself while receiving an adjoining parking lot sold by Metro Government for $1. The city is also leasing Blue 50 spaces in downtown parking garage.
In the ordinance, council members who introduced the bill say the matter of saving the structural facades is urgent and the language concludes the buildings present “an immediate threat” to public safety. A recent study commissioned by the city, however, showed that five of the buildings were sound.
Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, one of the emergency ordinance sponsors, told WFPL she hasn’t seen the agreement details but was briefed by the mayor’s economic team Monday morning and says the council needs to move quickly to save the city’s heritage.
“The deal was literally struck over the weekend,” she says. “It gives me no hesitation whatsoever because I have been actively engaged in supporting every effort out there to create such an agreement. In the past six weeks I’ve met with the mayor one-on-one on many occasions … so I have a level of comfort in not seeing the agreement because I have been in constant contact with the mayor and his administration.”
The committee on committees will decide on Tuesday whether to bypass procedures and placed on the council’s regular meeting agenda Thursday. The move to waive council rules at its full body meeting requires 14 yes votes.
If approved, the money will come from the unspent accounts set up for capital projects from previous years that have been completed.