Preservationists gearing up for Metro Council showdown over proposed changes to landmarks ordinance

An proposal by a group of Louisville Metro Councilmembers to make it more difficult to get landmark designation is riling preservationists.

As usual, Louisville Courant blogger Curtis Morrison had the scoop yesterday about a proposed amendment to Louisvillle’s landmark ordinance, an amendment sheduled to get a first hearing before the Louisville Metro Council tonight.

Curtis posted the ordinance, sponsored by six Lousiville Metro Council members, a proposal he believes has the fingerprints of one developer who he declined to name. (See the ordinance below.)

The changes are sponsored by David Yates, Rick Blackwell, Bob Henderson, David James, Vicki Welch and James Peden.

 The move already has energized the opposition.

Charles Cash with Preservation Louisville sent out an email to local preservationists with the details of the proposal, along with notice for a February 12 meeting, Curtis said.

Here’s Cash’s email:

Friends of Preservation:

Preservation Louisville has recently obtained a copy of a proposed amendment to the Landmarks Ordinance, Chap 32.250 of the Metro Code of Ordinances. This amendment is scheduled for introduction and first reading at the Metro Council meeting this Thursday, February 9, 2012.  A copy of the proposed amendment is attached to this email.


As the Ordinance stands today, 200 signatures of citizens residing in Jefferson County is sufficient to trigger the public discussion regarding the potential Landmark status of an historic district or individual property.  The Landmarks Commission process involves site visits, documentation, research, a staff report, committee review and, if warranted, a public hearing before the full Commission.  If a designation results, a Landmark district designation is then referred to Metro Council for final action, whereas, an individual Landmark designation is final when acted upon by the Commission.  This latter action has been used many times in the past to thwart demolition of significant structures, most notably in the recent past, Whiskey Row.

 The intent of this amendment is two-fold;

  • It limits the majority (51 percent) of the 200 citizens to being resident property owners within the proposed district, or in the case of individual Landmarks, residents within a one-mile radius.
  • It makes all designations require Metro Council approval.

The impact of this amendment as currently worded would end the ability of this community to landmark structures under imminent threat of demolition. Indeed, there would be great difficulty in finding sufficient people in certain parts of our community who are residents within one mile of a threatened structure — think of rural areas, such as Floyds Fork or parts of Wolf Pen Branch, where houses are spread apart!  No designations might be possible in these areas at all!  Even an issue like Whiskey Row itself, which had 9,000 signatures, might not be able to produce 102 resident signatures from within the one-mile radius!


Please read the draft amendment below.  Please plan to attend an emergency meeting at the Brennan House, 631 South Fifth Street on Sunday, Feb 12 at 3:00 to discuss this issue and plan a response strategy.  The Metro Council will send this item to be discussed in its Planning Committee on Tuesday, Feb 14 at 1:00 PM at the earliest, so time is of the essence.  That  Committee meeting may be the ONLY opportunity for public input, although we will ask for the item to be held in Committee pending a more detailed public discussion.

Please respond if you can attend the emergency meeting on Sunday.  Thank you!


And did we mention River FieldsExecutive Director Meme Sweets Runyon is rallying her troops:

Since this meeting has been scheduled so quickly, I want to be sure you all are aware of this important event tomorrow at 11 am tomorrow. Our office just received this notice at 8:17 this morning!

Should be an interesting few weeks ahead … almost as much fun as the whole Dr. Judy Green brouhaha.

Here’s the proposed ordinance:

(B) The Commission may designate an area as a district if it receives a petition requesting such designation, and if the petition contains the verified names and addresses of no fewer than 200 residents of such proposed district, and if at least 51% of those verified names and addresses contained in the petition are owners or the verified names and addresses of the owners of at least 501% of the structures or properties within the proposed district., whichever is fewer. The petition shall also contain the following information:

 (1) A description of the boundaries of the proposed district; and

 (2) A description of the distinctive characteristics of the proposed district.

 (C) The Commission may designate a structure or property as a local landmark if it receives a written request of the owner or owners of the structure or property, or a petition requesting designation containing the verified signatures and addresses of no fewer than 200 residents of Louisville Metro, and if at least 51% of those verified signatures and addresses contained in the petition are property owners located within a one-mile radius from the structure or property proposed for local landmark designation.

 G) The No designation of a local landmark or amendment to an already designated local landmark shall be effective until ratified by ordinance by the Metro Councilas of the date the designation is approved by the Commission and all provisions of this subchapter shall apply to such local landmark as of that the effective date of the ordinance ratifying or amending the subject designation.