A couple of weeks ago, the Courier-Journal ran an editorial  (probably written by Keith Runyon, but understandably unsigned) suggesting that our local government had declared war on historic preservation: “Mayor Greg Fischer and … members of the Metro Council have shown disdain for the laws that protect the remarkable architectural heritage of our old Falls City.”
About the same time, we received an email “Advocacy Alert ” from Preservation Louisville, warning that the Metro Council was planning to “…enact wholesale changes to an almost 40-year-old landmark process that has protected our heritage and been a proven economic driver in our community.”
We reviewed the proposed changes to the Landmarks Ordinance, and had difficulty understanding what all the hubbub was about. Much of the panicked opposition to the proposed changes is coming from people who have obviously not taken the time to read the pending ordinance. Rather than the dramatic “wholesale changes” decried by the preservationists, we could only find a couple of minor “attenuations” to the 1973-vintage ordinance.
As we indicated in our previous article on this topic , Councilman David Yates, one of the amendment’s sponsors, described the proposed changes as allowing for more neighborhood involvement when designating a structure as an historic landmark. “We are in support of historic preservation but too often, residents in the area are not made aware of the effort to preserve a structure or building and what it may mean for the future of their neighborhood,” says Yates. “This amendment would insure there is input and support for such a designation by the people who live in the area.”
The proposed ordinance changes the way the Landmarks Commission designates an individual structure as a landmark. Currently, a property owner may request a landmark designation, or a petition requesting designation may be filed, if it contains the verified signatures and addresses of no fewer than 200 residents of Louisville Metro. The new wording would require that 101 of those signatures come from individuals who actually reside or own property within one mile of the proposed landmark, or signatures from at least 10% of the total such residents or property owners within the one mile radius, whichever signature threshold is lower.
All this means is that folks who live or own property within a 1-mile radius (a circle 2 miles across, if you remember your Geometry) will have an equal voice in the landmark designation process. As our President is wont to say, “Folks with skin in the game, ought to have a seat at the table.” A bit of a mixed metaphor, perhaps, but pretty much on point. The voices of the owners and residents in the immediate proximity of landmark should have at least equal weight to the voices of the elites out on Wolf Pen Branch Road.
The only other proposed change would provide that all landmark or preservation district designations from the appointed Landmarks Commission would automatically become law unless a majority of the elected representatives on the Metro Council voted their disapproval within 60 days of the Commission's designation.
“It is important that government be open and accountable. We respect the Landmarks Commission and the work they do and we will continue to work with them. However, final determination should be made in an open process by the group elected and held accountable by the people of Louisville and not an appointed body,” said Yates.
People in Louisville are, generally, pretty much satisfied with the job being done by our Metro Council. We trust them. Heck, several of the incumbents are even running for re-election unopposed. We trust them with our tax money. We trust them to protect our health, safety, and welfare. And this minor modification to the existing law will mean that we trust them to look after our landmarks, too.
The Louisville Metro Council’s Planning and Zoning Committee announced yesterday that two (2) public hearings will be held on the proposed ordinance (O-33-02-12), which will amend Louisville Metro’s Designation of Historic Districts and Local Landmarks.
The first public hearing will take place on Tuesday March 13, 2012 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The first public hearing will be held within the Metro Council Chambers of City Hall (601 W. Jefferson Street). It will be aired live on METRO TV (Times-Warner Cable, Channel 25) and will also be streamed live on the Metro Council’s home page. Go to www.louisvilleky.gov/metrocouncil  and click on the “Watch Gavel to Gavel” icon.
The second public hearing will take place on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The second public hearing will be held at the meeting hall of UAW Local 862 (3000 Fern Valley Road). This hearing will not be aired live via Metro TV or streaming video due to the fact that the meeting is being held at a remote location. An audio recording of the meeting will be available on the Metro Council’s website after the conclusion of the meeting and recording of minutes.
Councilman Jon Ackerson (Planning and Zoning Committee Chair) said: “We encourage residents of Jefferson County to attend one of these two public hearings. The Planning and Zoning Committee has chosen to hold these forums in two separate locations and at different times to allow persons from all areas of the community the opportunity to participate.”
Hearing Rules: Persons wishing to address the committee will have the opportunity to sign up one (1) hour prior to the start of either hearing. Those who sign up to speak will be called to address the committee in the order in which they signed up, and will each be given up to three minutes to speak. Persons will not be allowed to sign up to speak via phone call or e-mail to the Metro Council in advance, nor will they be allowed to grant their time to another person.
At the first public hearing, signups will be held on the third floor of City Hall. At the second hearing, signups will take place at the UAW. Signups for both hearings will be conducted by the office of the Metro Council Clerk.
Any person who speaks before the committee or is unable to speak will be allowed to submit written testimony for inclusion in the record of the hearing. Persons attending the meetings are not allowed to bring signs, props or other materials that are larger than 8 ½” x 11” in size or that might block the view of persons attending the hearing.
Readers are encouraged to read and review the ACTUAL ORDINANCE pending before the Metro Council:
ORDINANCE NO._________, SERIES 2012 AN ORDINANCE AMENDING SECTION 32.260 OF THE LOUISVILLE/JEFFERSON COUNTY METRO CODE OF ORDINANCES (AS AMENDED BY SUBSTITUTION).
SPONSORED BY: Councilman David Yates Councilman Rick Blackwell Councilman Robert Henderson Councilman David James Councilman Vicki Welch Councilman James Peden Councilman Kelly Downard Councilman Jerry Miller Councilman Jim King Councilwoman Marianne Butler
BE IT ORDAINED BY THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL OF THE LOUISVILLE/JEFFERSON COUNTY METRO GOVERNMENT (THE COUNCIL) AS FOLLOWS: SECTION I: Section 32.260 of the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Code of Ordinances (Code) is amended as follows:
§ 32.260 DESIGNATION OF DISTRICTS AND LOCAL LANDMARKS.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I was asked to speak to the Metro Council’s Planning and Zoning, Land Design and Development Committee yesterday, to discuss the development and evolution of Louisville’s Landmarks Ordinance. Appearing with me, was Robert Rice, Esq., an attorney and law school professor who also chairs the Louisville Landmarks Commission. Mr. Rice discussed the operations and procedures of the Landmarks Commission.
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