Owens proposes compromise for change to landmarks ordinance

After two recent contentious and lopsided public hearings on the proposed amendment to Louisville’s historic landmarks ordinance, yesterday the Metro Planning and Zoning Committee finally discussed the issue in chambers.

Though there was no vote on the amendment (that will happen in two weeks), the big news was made by Councilman Tom Owen — an outspoken critic of the amendment sponsored by Council David Yates — who announced a proposed compromise amendment to replace that of Yates.

The changes in his amendment include:

1. At least 50 signatures of the required 200 for a landmark petition must come from residents in the council district where the property is located, as well as the second closest additional district. (Yates’ amendment requires half of the signatures to come from residents within a 1-mile radius.)

2. Requires a 30-day notice of a public hearing to 1) owners of the property, 2) the Metro Council member in the district, 3) small city in which the property may be located, 4) first and second-tier property owners, 5) any property owner within 500 feet, and 6) registered neighborhood associations.

3. Adds the two council members closest to the property to the Landmarks Commission with full voting power on that particular case. (Yates’ gives the full Council the final say, if they choose to get involved.)

4. Provides a stay of demolition during the Landmarks process up to 60 days.

The discussion among council members during the committee meeting was civil (Owens and Tina Ward-Pugh in favor of the new change, with Yates, Kelly Downard and Council President Jim King favoring the previous amendment), but it seems too early to tell whether there will be enough support for Owen’s amendment to replace Yates’, which appears to have a good amount of support on the council (despite widespread rejection during the public hearings).

Preservation Louisville — who has come out strongly against Yates’ amendment — appeared to support the Owen compromise, posting the changes on its Facebook wall with the message: “Preservationists provide a positive solution to the issues with the proposed Landmarks ordinance amendment!”

Steve Magruder — administrator of the Louisville History & Issues discussion board who voiced opposition to the Yates amendment at the last public hearing — says that Owen’s amendment is more to his liking.

“I very much like the ideas for enhanced notification,” Magruder tells LEO. “As for changes to the petition requirements, I think they go in the right direction, away from the arbitrary, technically problematic 1-mile radius. And changes to how Metro Council members are involved look positive too.”

However, Owen’s changes didn’t please everyone. Bryan Mathews, Owen’s opponent in the upcoming 8th District Democratic primary, says that no change is needed to the landmarks ordinance.

“My opponent is for preservation — self-preservation, that is, and like a lot of politicians he has come out on some issues during an election year,” Mathews tells LEO. “Unfortunately this latest proposal, like his record on historical preservation, is not in the best interest of protecting our historical assets.

“Ultimately, Tom is trying to side with the folks whose side he would have been on from the start in any other year.”

The Council will vote on the issue in two weeks.

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