For a second time, the Louisville Metro Planning Commission continued a public hearing on the contested Topgolf development at Oxmoor Center in Louisville’s East End.
While the public comment portion of the meeting is closed, the commission will begin deliberations at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, at the former jail, 514 W. Liberty St.
The nearly five and a half hours of testimony, rebuttal and questions Monday night was the continuation of a more than five-and-a-half hour meeting on Oct. 1, during which neighbors for and against spoke about the development’s potential impact and attorneys representing each side made their arguments before the Planning Commission.
During the hearing, Clifford Ashburner, the attorney representing Topgolf, said the commission heard a lot about fear from the opposition rather than facts, noting that he expects a legal fight.
“It is likely that this case could go into litigation. I want to make sure that the decision you all make tonight, hopefully make tonight, is upheld,” Ashburner said during his final statements.
The second lengthy public hearing drew a strong but smaller crowd of residents to the Founders Union Building on University of Louisville’s Shelbyhurst campus; roughly 500 attended the original hearing date on Oct. 1. The commission was forced to continue both the hearing last night and on Oct. 1 because the building closes at midnight.
“We can’t finish by midnight,” said commission chair Vince Jarboe, who said deliberations would take more than 30 minutes given the amount of information they must consider.
At Monday’s meeting, residents who opposed the development at Oxmoor Center were given more time to make their voices heard. In addition to previously stated concerns about lighting, noise and height of the project, multiple people spoke about the bar and club-like atmosphere at TopGolf properties. Numerous residents took issue with the fact that Topgolf, which serves food and alcohol, would stay open until 2 a.m. on weekends and said it would encourage more drunken driving.
One resident, Amy Kraft, showed pictures of fishbowl cocktails, large pints of beer and advertisements for bachelorette parties, deejays, college nights and other events. The venue is a place for 18- to 34-year-old “partygoers,” not families, she said, calling the development “grossly out of context.”
When questioned, a Topgolf representative said alcohol sales make up 25 percent of entertainment venues’ revenue.
City of Hurstbourne commissioner Ben Jackson said some of the small city’s residents fear that Topgolf would depress property values and echoed Kraft’s comments about Topgolf being less about golf and more about partying. He noted that one Topgolf had six bars and was scheduled to host 24 concerts in a 17-week period.
According to plans filed with the city, Topgolf wants to level the vacant Sears at the back of Oxmoor Center and erect a 62,103-square-foot entertainment center with 102 climate-controlled hitting bays with televisions. It would employ 500 people.
The development would include netting with poles standing 170-feet tall and light fixtures that the company argues would emit less light than the existing lighting at the rear of Oxmoor Center. However, the opposition has contended that the lights would shine into the city of Hurstbourne and that the poles and netting would create an eyesore.
The company made some changes to the plan, including shifting the project 200 feet west, following criticism from nearby residents but that has not assuaged those who oppose it.
During the Oct. 1 meeting, those in favor of Topgolf called it a must-have high-end attraction that will act as a new amenity for visitors, bring jobs to the area and help Louisville attract and retain young professionals. Some decried members of the opposition for attempting to drive away Topgolf, saying Louisville misses out on development because of a NIMBY attitude.
Mayor Greg Fischer told Terry Meiners on NewsRadio 840 WHAS that he is in favor of Topgolf coming to Louisville, stating that “great cities” say yes to things and noting that an unnamed business he is working to attract to the city mentioned wanting to have Topgolf in Louisville. He did not specifically comment on Topgolf’s plans to locate at Oxmoor Center.
In addition to more testimony from the opposition, the Planning Commission Monday night heard about a new lighting waiver that Topgolf submitted on Oct. 4 following the initial public hearing, stating that the city planning code does not accommodate the type of LED lighting it would like to install. Those representing Topgolf said the lighting would reduce the existing light output by more than one million lumens.
The proposed Topgolf would have 16 light fixtures mounted at 40 feet and 26 feet facing the practice range, and the company’s lighting experts have argued that the lighting is directed to limit the amount of light escaping the property.
After comments from the opposition stating that Topgolf keeps its lights on all night, Ashburner told the Planning Commission that the lights would be dimmed 50 percent at the time of closing and turned off two hours after closing.