Local News Politics

Study Sought For South Louisville’s Colonial Gardens Building

Five members of the Louisville Metro Council want to spend $15,000 from their neighborhood development funds to help pay for an economic feasibility study for the Colonial Gardens building in south Louisville.

The structure at New Cut Road and Kenwood Drive next to Iroquois Park has been vacant since 2004.

Vince Jarboe, president of the Southwest Dream Team community group, says there is a developer interested in buying and renovating the structure.

“I certainly believe that a feasibility study is going to tell the developer what they want to know, and that is that a restaurant concept is going to be perfect for that spot, but it’s what they need to know so they can take it to their ownership group to make the decision to buy it,” he said.

Jarboe declined to identify the potential buyer. He says the study would be part of a broader study of the New Cut/Taylor Boulevard corridor.

Some of the Colonial Gardens structure is more than a century old. A group of investors wanted to buy and raze the building in 2008, but the plans were halted when some citizens petitioned to have it declared a local landmark.

Colonial Gardens was once a popular beer garden and roadhouse, and the property was the site of Louisville’s first zoo.

(Photos from the Facebook page Restore Colonial Gardens)

Local News Next Louisville Politics

Panel To Consider Landmark Status For Kenwood Drive-In

The Louisville Metro Historic Landmarks and Preservation District Commission is expected to decide Thursday whether to grant landmark status to the 62-year old Kenwood Drive-In in south Louisville.

The designation would require the property’s owner to get permission from the city before altering or tearing down any structures on the property. It’s being sought by the Iroquois Civic Club and Neighborhood Association.

The Kenwood has been closed since 2008, when it was put up for sale by its owner, National Amusements.

The company says it’s opposed to any designation that could affect the sale of the property.

The Kenwood opened in 1949 off Southside Drive. It’s Louisville’s last standing drive-in theatre.

The landmarks commission will meet Thursday at 8:30am.

Local News Next Louisville

Welch Faces Challenger In 13th District Primary

by Gabe Bullard

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Vicki Aubrey Welch says she’s counting on a high voter turnout Tuesday to push her to victory on Tuesday in the 13th District Democratic Primary.

Welch has represented her south-end district since 2006. She faces a primary challenger from Fairdale firefighter Larry Roger Price, who says he’s running to bring a new face to Metro Government.

“I’m not trying to insult anybody, but a younger set of eyes, a new outlook on things, trying to get my generation a little more involved in the growth of our area,” says Price.

Welch most recently championed legislation aimed at curbing meth production, but later withdrew it from the council. She says that and other initiatives have made her popular in her district. And with the mayor’s race at the top of the ballot, she’s expecting a high turnout of constituents Tuesday.

“I think that helps incumbents with the high turnout, just because we do have high name recognition, number one,” she says. “Being a woman, I think, helps. I think women like to vote for women.”

Welch says despite her incumbency, she’s taking the primary race seriously. Especially since Price may carry the vote around Fairdale. One Republican, Renay Davis is also running for the seat.

Next Louisville State of Affairs

Next Louisville: South/Southwest Louisville

Thursday, April 22, 2010
Next Louisville: South/Southwest Louisville
Over the years South/Southwest Louisville has had farms, a mall (Westland anyone?), major department stores, and even a zoo! Nowadays the neighborhoods keep growing, but new retail development is hard to find. Residents are proud of their area and many who move away return, so why is it so hard to attract businesses? How can South/Southwest Louisville become a bigger player in the Metro?

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Local News Next Louisville

Hawkins Faces Challengers For Council Seat

By Gabe Bullard

Louisville Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins has earned a reputation with some of his colleagues that does him few favors. He’s sometimes seen as a contrarian on certain issues, especially those championed by the mayor, and the two-term Republican is often outspoken on matters beyond the council’s control.  Hawkins is up for re-election this year, and with two opponents, he could be in for the toughest race in his career.

Over coffee at Mr. Lou’s Country Cottage on Valley Station Road in the 25th District, Brian Tucker reflects on his councilman.

“I think he’s a polarizing figure,” he says. “I think the people that like him really love him and I think the people that don’t have really any opinion of him whatsoever, once they start to look at his record will dislike him and vote for anybody else besides him.”

Tucker runs a blog about issues in southwest Louisville. He says Hawkins’ has given the 25th District a bad reputation with his seemingly quixotic attempts to end illegal immigration in Louisville and to halt construction of an apparently benign police storage facility, among other actions.

Tucker says the councilman does little to help his constituents, and instead has his sights on winning a seat in the state Senate, or another office beyond the Metro Council.

“When we think of Doug Hawkins, we think of a guy who’s out to help himself,” he says.

But Hawkins says all of his actions on the council have been in his district’s best interest and he doesn’t consider his council seat a stepping stone to higher office.

“I have an open line of communication with my constituents,” says Hawkins. “And they know I’m concerned about the same issues they’re concerned about.”

“It’s nothing against Doug, but I think Doug always fights the wrong fight,” says Dr. Robert Thrasher.

Thrasher is challenging Hawkins in the Republican primary. He says he hasn’t seen the councilman do enough to help his district in the last 7 years. And with many southwestern Louisville residents questioning the benefits of the city-county merger, Tucker and Thrasher say the 25th needs a representative who will focus on bringing business and jobs to the area, instead of waging political battles.

Thrasher says naysaying and politicking have made Hawkins a weak candidate, and he doesn’t expect the councilman to keep his seat.

“If I don’t beat Doug, then David Yates will beat him in the fall,” he says.

David Yates is the sole Democrat seeking his party’s nomination to Hawkins’ seat. A former assistant under then-Attorney General and now Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, he’s earned Stumbo’s support as well as endorsements from other big-name local Democrats. He hopes to parlay that support into votes.

“I think people in my district are tired of being put on the front page as what’s wrong with the south end,” he says. “I think I can be more effective as a leader serving the district, instead of using the district to serve myself.”

Back at Mr. Lou’s, blogger Brian Tucker is concerned that Hawkins will fight fundraising and political support with negative campaigning. Hawkins often uses e-mail blasts and robo-calls to tell constituents about district events and issues. He says voters appreciate this interaction and all the other work he does for them.

“I’ve got some 75 thousand e-mails that I communicate with my constituents on a regular basis with. I’ve got a phone-calling machine; I can put out 10,000 phone calls a day,” says Hawkins.

He says he plans to win the race the same way he won his first two council elections…by being himself, outspoken and conservative on any issue he thinks is important.

“I’m pro-life, pro-family, pro-God, pro-gun, pro-American,” he says. “I believe in less government, lower taxes and more freedom.”

Yates and Thrasher say Hawkins and his autodialer have worn out their welcome. They hope voters will agree with them as they go door-to-door to discuss local issues in 25th district.

In-Depth News Local News

In Depth: MSD Considering Buyouts To Prevent Floods

On August 4th, six inches of rain fell on parts of Louisville in about 90 minutes. The freak storm caused a flood disaster, especially in the western and southwestern sections of the city. In those flood-prone areas, the city’s combined sewer system could not handle the massive amounts of water entering drains. Now Metro Sewer District officials are looking for ways to allow more water into the ground instead of into the sewer.

Three weeks after the flood, west Louisville resident Felicia Gardner told a Metro Council committee that what happened on August 4th was a more severe episode of the flooding that happens during every hard rainfall.

“If any of this occurred in the east end on a daily basis, you all would be doing something about it,” she said. “You know it, I know it, we all know it. Let’s keep it real.”

The east end may not flood as often, but Metro Government’s options are limited when it comes to keeping neighborhoods dry. The combined sewer system underneath much of the city handles both storm runoff and waste water. Even though it’s one of the largest combined sewers in the world, it’s out of date. Parts of it were built more than a century ago, when there wasn’t much to prevent water from soaking into the ground instead of draining into the sewer.

“No one in the 30s ever envisioned the amount of build-out that we see today,” says Metro Sewer District director Bud Schardein.

The ground over the combined sewer was covered with houses and driveways so gradually over the years that Schardein says MSD didn’t realize a drainage problem was being created as it granted building permits. He says it’s financially and logistically unfeasible to rebuild the sewer, so other steps have to be taken to reduce the amount of water going into the sewer. That could mean using a federal grant to buy flood-prone homes in west and southwest Louisville and destroy them, thereby freeing up more ground to absorb rainwater.

“Even with very, very large combined sewers already in the ground, just because of the elevation of those properties or those neighborhoods, a very heavy rain will continue to inundate the areas,” he says.

“If the water had somewhere else to go, that would alleviate the pressure enormously,” says Rose George, author of The Big Necessity, a book about waste management. She says Louisville isn’t unique: all over the world, permeable ground has been paved over, leading to flood-prone neighborhoods.

“Creating more permeable ground is probably the best solution we have the moment because it simply gives the water somewhere else to go,” she says. “And therefore it doesn’t go down in the sewers and it doesn’t overload the sewers and you don’t have floods.”

Many of the residents that might be bought out are represented by Metro Councilwoman Judy Green.

“They get flooded frequently in a heavy rain,” says Green. “So I think that they are ready to go on and look for higher ground.”

Green says her constituents are tired of flooding, but there may be a problem with buyouts.

“Over at 23rd and Maple, where the houses are shotgun-type houses probably worth 15 thousand dollars, how are you going to realistically move to a new place or a new home for that amount?” she says.

The funding for buyouts isn’t yet secured and Schardein says he won’t try to force anyone to leave. In the meantime, MSD is installing backflow prevention valves in homes and encouraging property owners to build water-absorbing rain gardens at their own expense. Both can help prevent flooding, but Schardein says the water is always going to need someplace to go.

And to keep citizens informed of their options, Councilwoman Green expects the ad-hoc flood committee that she co-chairs to pass a resolution summarizing the causes of the flood and the city’s response in the aftermath.

Local News

Study Shows Financial Potential Of Underserved Areas

Retailers could be missing out on $1.1 billion in potential sales in South and West Louisville. That’s according to a study from the Social Compact group of Washington D.C.

Most of the money is believed to be in the form of cash spending, which isn’t always tracked by retail analysts. Social Compact came up with the figure by combining census data with residents’ spending, bill paying and other life habits.

The report also shows a higher population and median income in areas such as Shively, Newburg and downtown. Social Compact President John Talmage says the data can lure retail businesses closer to urban areas.

“The fact of the matter is that the suburbs are saturated,” he says. “There’s been a tremendous overbuild of retail in suburban neighborhoods. They’ve got to find their way back to these neighborhoods. Many of them are trying to get here, they just need the information to try and get here faster.”

Mayor Jerry Abramson says the data will be given to national retailers and financial groups in hopes of spurring economic activity in West Louisville and along Dixie Highway.

In-Depth News Local News WFPL News Department Podcast

Mayor/Council Members Clash On Police Storage

Since April there’s been controversy surrounding the safety of a proposed police storage facility near the Cardinal Hill reservoir in Louisville. This month, the Mayor’s office agreed to look at other sites for the facility. But the arguments could be more explosive than the structure itself.

At the Cardinal Hill reservoir site, Lieutenant Rich Sohan with the Louisville Bomb squad looks out at the center of the controversy.

“There’s a burmed wall, an earthen wall about 600 feet away from where we’re standing right now,” says Sohan.

Underneath that wall is a reservoir. The structure that would go on the surface 600 feet behind it has been called a bomb storage facility and a bomb shelter, but officially, it’s a type two storage magazine. As such, it will follow federal guidelines and not store more than 50 pounds of explosive material.

Councilman Doug Hawkins says that’s too much to put near South Louisville’s water supply.

“The problem is, what kind of a seismic wave would it create?” he says. “And would some kind of seismic wave compromise the reservoir?”

“In order to cause damage to that reservoir, which is underground, you would have to be able to have a charge, sub surface which would send all that energy to there in order to damage that reservoir,” says Sohan. “It would take a lot more than 50 pounds in order to do that.”

Sohan says the facility will temporarily store materials the bomb squad confiscates and doesn’t consider dangerous enough to detonate. That means fireworks, weapons and the occasional dynamite, grenade or antique war shell.

Hawkins doubts the materials will be that benign.

“It’s not Jerry’s cherry bomb squad, it’s the bomb squad,” he says. “They handle very serious, very deadly munitions.”

“We gave out a list to every one of the 26 council members a list of the stuff that had been in the sheds we have today,” says Mayor Jerry Abramson.

He adds that the list doesn’t include…

“…Nuclear devices, anthrax, bombs, hydrogen…”

“I mean, all we’re trying to do is get the facts out so people can understand,” he says.

The city legally has to have a place to store bomb squad materials. The current facility doesn’t meet federal guidelines, and Abramson accuses Hawkins of delaying the new storage facility by exaggerating the Cardinal Hill situation to energize his campaign for the state Senate.

“Councilman Hawkins has a way of, for lack of a better term demagogue-ing an issue,” says the mayor.

Hawkins says he’s not exaggerating, and the city has not been honest about the site, not about the search for an alternate location and not about what will be stored there.

“Not at all. Not one iota,” he says. “They have not been honest at all. This has been one exercise in deceit and it’s been controlled by the mayor and by the administration.”

At the Cardinal Hill site, Lieutenant Sohan points out that if the facility were to explode, the first thing damaged would be a MetroSafe tower. If it fell, a multi-million dollar communication system would be crippled. He says the site is as safe as any other that meets federal guidelines. And he’s not alone.

“In my opinion, it’s much about nothing,” says Paul Haydon, the executive vice president of Armag. “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal there myself.”

Armag is the Bardstown-based company that makes the storage units, or magazines. They sell the same facilities to the bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Armed Services. The only difference between the facilities is the locking mechanism on the door.

“Magazines are built for the safe and secure storage of the contents, in this case, explosives,” says Haydon.

Haydon says accidental detonation isn’t a major concern for his clients…security is, though. It’s the type of security that could be compromised if maps of the magazine’s location were distributed, like they were by the city at a Metro Council meeting. It could also be compromised if the location were featured online, like it is in videos on Doug Hawkins’ YouTube page.