King of the Caucus Takes the Heat on B&B Law

Jim King makes his point at the Caucus meeting

I showed up the Democratic Caucus meeting of the Metro Council on Thursday, just in time to hear some really bad singing of Happy Birthday for Tina Ward-Pugh. The Caucus meetings, though, are a way better way to hear what’s really going on, because it’s in the Caucus meeting that the real debate takes place before the cameras come on at the actual meetings.

And yesterday the hot topic was the ordinance restricting what the 15 Bed & Breakfasts in town are allowed to do with their property. Most of these businesses operate quietly in Old Louisville, a point made by Tom Owen, who said that while a bunch of noise was being made about the businesses, he’d never heard a complaint about noise from a constituent. He said the laboratory operating for 20 years had proved that there wasn’t a problem with B&Bs.

Talk about seeking a solution where there’s no problem.

But the real drama came from Jim King, who has been locked in a dispute with his neighbor, Nancye Morris, who operates a small B&B next door to King’s house off Newburg Road. Their dispute goes back several years, as Morris was operating a wedding business out of her home until, according to King, he received complaints from neighbors and took some legal action. That’s a long story I don’t need to go into here, but suffice it to say King was perturbed about a C-J story that implied that King was pulling strings of fellow council persons to get the ordinance restrictions set up in a way that thwarts his neighbor.

King, of course, denied all that. He said he wasn’t even aware that Dan Johnson was writing the ordinance, and made it clear that although the Morris property is a quarter-mile from his home, he had “no personal vendetta.”

“I have enough character that I can take the heat from personal attacks and protect my neighbors,” he said. Then he launched a small attack on Steve Porter, the attorney (who spoke out at last night’s full Council meeting) who owns a B&B and represents Morris.

“Steve Porter has an economic interest and represents my neighbor and has attacked me personally. Just remember he is being paid and has a huge conflict of interest,” King said.

The crux of the issue, at least in the eyes of the members, was whether people should have the right to hold events at their homes, located in neighborhoods, that might disrupt the enjoyment by neighbors of their homes. In my view, they put in some unnecessary restrictions on the businesses, like limiting the number of guests at events, limiting the number of events (weddings) and requiring event-holders to have no amplified sound and to stop making any noise at dark. I was surprised they didn’t throw in language saying that guests couldn’t touch each other, have alcohol or stand within 6 feet of the wedding party.

Caucus chair Madonna Flood seemed concerned that all of her neighbors, unable to pay their mortgages, would open up B&Bs and start hosting wild parties.

A compromise amendment offered by David James, the only member who has a real stake in the issue (most B&Bs are in his district), was eventually passed.  And now King’s neighbor won’t be holding massive weddings on her property (they limited guests to 75) and life will go on. And certain people will continue to believe that King orchestrated the whole thing.

After the meeting, the Caucus sent out a press release with quotes from 9 Dems, mostly touting their efforts at protecting neighborhoods, like this doozy from Bob Henderson, who doesn’t seem to understand why businesses won’t open up in his South End district even as he leads the Council’s efforts to restrict businesses:

“We need to always make sure we protect the integrity of any neighborhood. When you have invested in a home you should not have to worry about the noise and traffic problems of a new business that may be in your neighborhood. I believe these changes will go a long way to ease those kinds of concerns from homeowners.”

But there were no official quotes from King, who said in the caucus that his comments were the last we’d hear from him on the topic.