Council’s Plan Would Kill Preservation

Whiskey Row would never have been saved under this new ordinance

UPDATE 1:30 P.M. — David Yates says an amendment is being added that would allow the requirement of 100 signatures of property owners within a mile to be altered to require 10% of the property owners in the area. He said the goal of the ordinance is to give Metro Council some control over the process.

I had to make a few calls to get this straight. Last night, the Metro Council introduced an ordinance that would require that, for any property to be eligible for landmark status, an application must include 100 signatures from property owners living within a mile of the structure. The current rules require 200 signatures, but only that signess live in Jefferson County.

Prominent preservationist and attorney Steve Porter told me the ordinance would “gut the whole system.”

The ordinance is co-sponsored by six Metro Council members — David James, David Yates, Bob Henderson, Rick Blackwell, Vicki Welch and James Peden. I just can’t believe they really knew what they were doing.

“It’s based on the wrong premise,” said Porter, “and that is that only people who live within a mile of a structure care about property.”

As examples, Porter said that the preservation of Whiskey Row never would have happened. He said some rural properties don’t have 100 residents living with in a mile. Other properties, such as those downtown and in the West End, are owned by absentee landlords, and renters are also not eligible to sign petitions under the ordinance.

Dr. John Gilderbloom, a U of L professor involved in preservation efforts, wrote an alarming e-mail warning of the effects of the ordinance: ” (1) Neighborhoods attempting to get historic preservation status to preserve the value of their homes won’t get the estimated $30,000 average benefit in home values; (2) foreclosures are a lot less with historic preservation ordinances and (3) the tourism economy of Louisville will also be hurt, and crimes are less with historic preservation protections because the effort takes a great deal of networking, social media,  pot lucks and unite a neighborhood with a “we” feeling.   More importantly the proposal is anti-jobs since  investment in historic properties has one of the highest job multipliers of any investment coming to 43 jobs for every million spent on historic home renovation.”

In today’s Courier, Yates defended the ordinance with this faulty logic:  “To me it’s more about making sure that when we make a decision that affects business owners and neighborhoods, that … the people affected are brought to the table. We’ll be in agreement with the Landmarks Commission 99 percent of the time. But we have a responsibility for oversight.”

The Council’s authors obviously haven’t thought this one through. Preservationists are meeting today, and will likely organize opposition and talk some sense into the Council members.