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Metro Planning votes to recommend Prospect Cove

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By Glen Jennings

 After almost four hours of testimony, the Metro Planning Commission voted to recommend Metro Council approve the senior housing complex the city of Prospect has fought for nearly a year.

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The boisterous hearing on Aug. 29, where Prospect residents cheered and applauded speakers who reinforced the city’s position and sometimes laughed during opposing testimony, allowed supporters and opponents a chance to speak. Both sides engaged in heated rhetoric. At several points, members of the commission asked the audience to quiet down.

 

“All you’re doing is delaying the proceedings,” a commissioner said after one bout of applause. “It isn’t affecting anything. All it is is making you feel better. Please just don’t do that.”

The room almost fell silent after the planning commission voted unanimously to recommend the zoning change that would allow a 198-unit affordable senior housing complex to be built just outside the Prospect city limits.

Prospect residents argued that the complex, called Prospect Cove, would be unsafe for residents with its proximity to a gas station. Several residents, including medical professionals, testified that gas fumes could cause cancer. 

“There is a great deal of data confirming that there are increased health risks clearly to people who are chronically exposed to gasoline vapors,” said Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg, a cancer surgeon. “There would be a very negative health impact upon the potential residents who might occupy the Prospect Cove Development.”

Advocates for the city also argued that the complex would be too far away from emergency services equipped to handle a development of its size and that potential residents may have a difficult time escaping a fire.

“Old people living on the top floor are going to get to lie there and get peed on by the sprinklers while they’re dying of smoke inhalation because nobody can get up there and get them out of the building,” Prospect resident Roy Givens said. 

Opposing voices, including the mayor’s, also balked at the size and density of the facility. Several residents said they would not have a problem with a smaller development. Some even accused LDG Development, the company behind the proposal, of placing the building on a larger piece of land than necessary to make its density seem less extreme.

“A better plan can be presented that is less huge, less tall. We’d be glad to consider it,” Prospect Mayor John Evans said. “We are not concerned that it is affordable housing. We support that. To wit, we have affordable housing in Prospect…Similarly, Prospect is supportive of senior housing. Just last week, a senior housing facility was opened on Carslaw Court in Prospect. It’s a two-story building, it’s beautiful. We love it. Our main concern is the very massive size of this building. If this building were half its size, we would welcome it.”

Before the hearing, Prospect committed $150,000 to renew its fight against the development.

Representatives of LDG directly attacked arguments from Prospect residents and city officials. LDG supporters accused them of inflating potential residency numbers and unveiled a redesigned facility positioned farther from homeowners in the area.

“All throughout Jefferson County, the average size of renter households versus the size of the unit actually shows that one-person households predominate,” said Cathy Hinko of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition. “Let’s stop using terrorist math deliberately and stick to data.”

Susan Miller, a Prospect resident, said she was ashamed of the way her fellow residents were acting. She said most people in Prospect would not be horribly impacted by the development and that surprises like it are part of being a homeowner.

“When my late husband and I bought our property, we were told the East End Bridge was going to be right in front of us, and it is. That was just the way it went,” Miller said. “I am embarrassed to think that so many people are so opposed to the idea that people over 55 would be living in our beautiful community of Prospect.”

LDG representatives also argued that the location is ideal for potential residents with its proximity to a shopping center. They pointed to the increasing age range in the Louisville area and the sparse number of housing options near the east end.

Michael Gross, a representative of the developer, said Prospect Cove would not decrease local property values and might even cause an increase – a statement that drew laughter from the audience.

In a separate interview, Oldham County Property Value Administrator (PVA) Barbara Winters, who between appraisals and her work in the PVA office has 17 years of experience, said Gross’ statement is likely accurate.

“I don’t see it really affecting the value of some of these homes because they’re not comparable,” Winters said.

Although Winters added that Prospect Cove could easily provide a shot in the arm to local businesses, giving them a nearby and reliable source of income, she also cautioned that it would be difficult to know the exact impact it would have on local properties without seeing it. 

“We’re not going to know until it’s there and we see what becomes of it,” she said.

The city has been fighting to prevent the development for months, starting with a $100,000 commitment to fight it and continuing with a Metro Planning and Development meeting that was moved and rescheduled to accommodate crowds of more than 300. After that meeting delayed the purchase, the city attempted to buy the land, annex some of it and earmark it for alternate uses.

The first hearing, held Jan. 31, lasted until after midnight, taking up more than six hours. At the end of the meeting, the commission declined to make a decision on the development, but agreed with the city that it did not match the aesthetic character of the surrounding area and ordered LDG to come back with a revised plan.

LDG spokeswoman Christy Robinson said her coworkers are pleased to be moving to the next step.

“We tried to listen to the feedback,” Robinson said. “We’re thrilled that the planning and zoning commission recommended that metro planning and zoning recommended to approve our proposed project.”

Meanwhile, Prospect does not intend to give up on stopping the facility from being built.

“Our fight has just begun, and we have made an excellent factual record which was our goal,” Evans said in an email to residents. “The Commission’s recommendation for approval next goes to the Metro Council. They will either accept or reject the Commission’s recommendation. They are required to consider only the factual record made in the hearings of the Planning Commission, which I believe favor rejection.”

He added if Metro Council approved the plans, the city would take the issue to court.

An earlier version of this article appeared on Aug. 29.