Local officials have little say over Family Dollar in Nulu - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Local officials have little say over Family Dollar planned for Nulu

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LOUISVILLE Ky. (WDRB) -- Nulu leaders say a Family Dollar discount store isn't a good fit for the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood centered along E. Market Street.

But it looks like they'll have little power to stop it, short of persuading Family Dollar not to follow through with the plan.

That's because the vacant piece of land at 300 Baxter Ave. – on the edge of Nulu – is already zoned for a commercial development, according to Bill Bardenwerper, the attorney handling land approvals for Family Dollar.

"We are entitled to have a building, parking and access (to the site)," Bardenwerper said.

If the site needed a zoning change, local officials would have much more discretion over the plan, including a final approval by the Metro Council.

Family Dollar does need approvals from a local body – the Louisville Metro Board of Zoning Adjustment – but only for two variances and a waiver having to do with setbacks from roads.

The BOZA approvals should be fairly routine, Bardenwerper said, given the site's odd shape with frontage along three streets (Chestnut, Liberty and Baxter). The layout of the building as proposed is about the only way a store would fit on the property, he said.

Bardenwerper added that the BOZA board can't deny those variances and the waiver simply because it thinks a Family Dollar is inappropriate for the area.

Gill Holland, a major investor in E. Market Street buildings and president of the Nulu Business Association, told WDRB on Wednesday that neighborhood merchants don't favor the Family Dollar proposal.

"That is such a gateway to the Highlands; it's a gateway to downtown... It just seems like maybe not the highest use for that property," he said.

Family Dollar is a general merchandise store where most items are less than $10, with many less than $1, according to the company's annual financial disclosure to investors.

"Our offerings are particularly attractive to consumers in the low to lower-middle income brackets or fixed income households," Family Dollar said in the report.

The company did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

At the Nulu group's monthly meeting Wednesday, Louisville Metro Urban Design Administrator Bob Keesaer suggested creating an overlay district for the neighborhood.

In an interview with WDRB, Keesaer said a new overlay wouldn't affect the proposed Family Dollar – it's far too late for that – but it would make sure that future developments conform to certain urban design guidelines.

For example, the rebuilt McDonald's across from Mid-City Mall is pulled up to the street – its parking lot shielded with a façade wall -- because of design requirements that are part of the Bardstown Road Overlay District, he said.

An overlay district still would not prevent a Family Dollar, as it only deals with design issues and not land use, Keesaer said.

Bardenwerper said the stores Family Dollar is building today look nicer than its older stores. He said the new Portland store at 22nd Street and Portland Ave., which is built but not yet open, is very similar to what is proposed on Baxter Avenue.

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