Large Turnout for Public Hearing on Louisville’s Landmarks Ordinance

by Devin Katayama on March 13, 2012

Louisville’s Metro Council will consider public comments received Tuesday from supporters and opponents who staked their positions during a committee hearing on proposed changes to the city’s landmarks ordinance.

The proposal would give the council more control over what becomes a historic landmark and would require at least 51 percent of residents who sign a petition to request a hearing live within a one mile radius of a potential landmark site.

Nearly 20 individuals spoke to the Planning and Zoning, Land Design and Development committee during a public comment period. Many were residents concerned that changing the current landmarks ordinance would result in losing historic structures or districts throughout the county.

Realtor and investor groups spoke in support of the ordinance, saying it gives residents more say in neighborhood developments.

“The current ordinance puts unfair limitations on that right of the property owner where the proposed ordinance, while still keeping some restraints, does in fact give that property owner a little more input as to what’s going on,” said Paul Ogden, president of Greater Louisville Association of Realtors.

But opponents say Louisville’s history shouldn’t be defined by a limited number of citizens and the current 200 signatures required of any residents city-wide is sufficient.

The ordinance would also allow Metro Government to have the final say on which structures receive a landmark hearing.

Deborah Stewart is also a member of Greater Louisville Association of Realtors but she opposes the measure.

“I urge you to limit the hindrance this proposed change, in the landmarks designation process, represents,” she said.

Stewart and other opponents, say the Landmarks Commission, with 10 of its 13 members appointed by Mayor Greg Fischer, is sufficient for determining which structures should be landmarks.

“This essentially takes power from the people and puts it in the hands of a governmental body and I think the Metro Council could use less on their plates,” said resident Cherise Williams.

Councilman David Yates, D-25, proposed the ordinance. He said many who spoke at the public hearing don’t have the full picture.

“The frustration is a lot of people, I guess, haven’t read the ordinance yet, a lot of misinformation, and there’s fear,” Yates told WFPL.

For example, he said, either 51 percent of residents within a mile radius would have to sign on to be eligible for landmark designation, or at least 10 percent of the total property owners or residents with their legal domicile located within a one-mile radius of the structure or property, whichever signature threshold is lower.

“So if you ever found an area in Louisville one day that only has 800 people, residents living there, you only need 80 signatures,” said Yates.

Another public hearing is scheduled for April 3. The council is not expected to take any action until after that meeting.

Click here to see a copy of the amendments.

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