‘Forgotten people, forgotten land’: Weak leadership, lack of unity make Southwest Louisville easy target for junkyards, flea markets

An old Melton’s Food Mart location on Valley Station Road has been transformed into a flea market/yard sale operation.

Being an activist in your neighborhood might be a cool thing if you live in the Highlands or Germantown, but being a neighborhood activist in

Southwest Louisville makes you about as cool as a fanny pack.

Last week I was called an “elitist” for complaining about a new flea market/yard sale operation. It is the twelfth such business to begin operating in the southwest in the last three years.

There has been an abundance of talk lately about retail development here, with some residents (the minority) turning sour on dirty flea markets and knick-knack shops. Others (the majority) are perfectly satisfied with their options, although they say they would like a “nice place to eat” on Dixie Highway.

You know, a place to cool the heels after a tough day sifting through yard sale items at an abandoned Kroger store.

The latest project to come racing down the jack was one that personally offended me and a few others who have put in time to improve the reputation of the southwest area in the eyes of the community. The “public meeting” on the project did little to change any minds.

Copart USA wants to build a “salvage auto auction storage and title facility” on nearly 60 acres adjacent to Pond Creek near the Gene Snyder Freeway. The company says the lot, once completed, will hold 2,800 wrecked vehicles that will be sold online to companies and individuals.

Some residents call it an automobile junkyard, and I do not disagree with them.

It is my opinion the place will be a junkyard in which you have to buy the whole car instead of by the piece, as if that makes any difference.

The problem Copart USA has is the land is very close to residences in the Prairie Village neighborhood. Citizens went wild and jammed a local church to voice their displeasure, all the while being told by the company’s attorney, “You people have no say. The land is already zoned for it.”

I was contacted by an old high school classmate who lives in direct view of the property in question. Of the meeting she said, “These people are nuts. They are ready to fight up here.”

The larger issue is there are some people who don’t see anything wrong with this type of development – an issue which takes us to this even larger predicament: We cannot seem to agree on what type of place we want this to be.

It has always been this way. We organize and fight just long enough to make the news. Then, we slip back into the complacency coma that has allowed bad development and bad ideas to flourish and flush out all the good people who made this place their home.

Over 100 years ago, when developers were looking for a place to build a tuberculosis hospital, they looked to a site in the southwestern portion of the county. Back then, this area was mostly populated by farmers. They, too, resisted the development, saying it would only spread disease. The developers had two choices. Valley Station or Saint Matthews. A 1908 article in the Kentucky Irish American newspaper stated it as thus:

Oppose the Hospital
The residents of this county in the
neighborhood of Valley Station have
entered a protest against the erection
of the Tuberculosis Hospital on
the proposed site. A tract of 127
acres has been purchased and work
on the hospital was about to begin.
Steps are now about to be taken to
secure an injunction to prevent its
erection.

 

Today, we all know the place as the old Waverly Hills Sanatorium, a blighted eyesore that has become a haunted-house type attraction among ghost hunters and other paranoids.

There are many reasons why low-end businesses choose to locate in certain areas. Not the least of which is lack of political strength.

For over a century, we have not been able to get it together. In the 1970’s, Kentucky Educational Television produced a short titled, “Forgotten People, Forgotten Land”. In it were detailed accounts of neighborhood groups complaining of the lack of organization and government neglect in the community as they worked fruitlessly to improve the area.

The same complaints can be heard today.

Don’t get me wrong, here. There are people who genuinely care about the neighborhood. But last week, an argument on the Valley Report Facebook page revolved around the idea that “Southwest Louisville” wasn’t an accurate moniker, and that it should be called Southwest Jefferson County.

This is after 10 years of merged government.

What is the answer? Damned if I know.

We can’t even agree on what to call this place.