The Louisville Metro Council Planning and Zoning committee has tabled an amendment to the landmarks ordinance proposed by Councilman David Yates, D-25, which would make significant changes to the city’s land development code.
The current ordinance requires residents to gather at least 200 signatures to petition the Landmarks Commission for protected status for a building or monument. In Yates’s amended version, however, 102 of the signatures would have to come from people who live or own property within a one-mile radius of the proposed historical site.
Further changes would give the council final say on any landmark designations, but preservationists argue the proposed guidelines threaten historic buildings and favor developers.
Yates says the Landmarks Commission does important work, but the council should have more oversight.
“The Landmarks Commission is appointed by the mayor and therefore not held accountable by the constituents. While they do great work, we respect them and we need them…I think there should be oversight and there should also be a forum for constituents and neighborhoods who are affected to be able to voice their concerns to an open body,” he says.
The bill has eight co-sponsors and bipartisan support on the council, but council Democrats are reportedly divided over the ordinance.
Preservationists who oppose the bill and say the council has sufficient oversight because it can reject the mayor’s appointments to the Landmarks Commission. And many are concerned that the bill would make it harder to stop developers from demolition historic structures, such as the case involving the Whiskey Row buildings along Main Street in downtown Louisville.
Stephen Porter is an attorney who has represented preservation groups in the Whiskey Row case against the city. He says after meeting with Yates, he believes the measure threatens the city’s history and favors wealthy developers.
“What we have here is a system that’s not broken and there’s no reasons to make changes to the petition process. At this meeting, what came out was one case is the impetus for this and the other comments were the Landmarks Commission is biased and not geographically representative,” he says.
Porter says the council should do a better job of oversight in watching who Mayor Greg Fischer appoints to the Landmarks Commission instead of changing city law.
The Planning and Zoning Committee voted Tuesday to table the measure and get more public input.
Yates says he favors the delays and wants more neighborhood groups and preservationists to add their voices to the conversation.
For the full interview with Yates and Porter, listen below.