Lawsuit alleges illegal makeup of Louisville planning commission
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A group of eastern Jefferson County residents is suing Louisville Metro government and several developers, arguing that the city planning commission's approval of a FedEx distribution center should be voided because the agency's membership violates state law.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Jefferson Circuit Court, claims that at least seven of the commission's eight members appointed by Mayor Greg Fischer and approved by the Metro Council "have a direct financial interest in the land development and construction industry" – which Kentucky law prohibits.
The law requires that four of the body's eight appointed members have no such ties.
In addition, the lawsuit alleges the commission is breaking state law because one member lives in Oldham County and only one member is female.
"The illegal constitution of the Planning Commission causes the Commission to have a bias, overt or subconscious, in favor of any proposed action by an applicant or developer, resulting in decisions not made with the unbiased attitude intended by Kentucky law and intended by any good planning process, which is a direct violation" of Kentucky law, the plaintiffs say in court documents.
Bill Patteson, a spokesman for the Jefferson County Attorney's Office, declined to comment because the lawsuit is pending.
Donnie Blake, the planning commission's chairman and one of the members who is alleged to have business interests in development and construction, declined to comment.
Kentucky law requires members of the planning commission to live within Jefferson County. Commission member Clifford Turner, who the lawsuit claims lives in Oldham County, spoke briefly with a reporter Friday afternoon.
The phone connection was lost shortly after Clifford was asked whether he lives in Oldham County. Three immediate phone calls back to Clifford's office were not answered, and Clifford didn't immediately return a phone message.
The lawsuit was filed by 21 residents, along with the Tucker Station Neighborhood Association, the Floyds Fork Environmental Association, the Wolf Pen Preservation Association, Open Louisville and Neighborhood Planning and Preservation.
They are asking a judge to rule that the makeup of the planning commission is illegal; order Fischer and the Metro Council to change the body's membership; and declare two March decisions by the commission "null and void."
Besides arguing that the commission was "illegitimate," the lawsuit claims that the board "disregarded and failed to enforce" the comprehensive Cornerstone 2020 plan and the Louisville-Jefferson County land development code in approving a proposed FedEx distribution center on Plantside Drive and an office, warehouse and distribution project on Rehl Road. Both were approved by the commission on March 6, according to the lawsuit.
Among those named as defendants are Metro government, including Fischer and the Metro Council, the planning commission, Hosts Development and Setzer Properties Zelo.
Setzer applied for the FedEx project on land owned by Hosts, and Hosts owns the Rehl Road land, according to the suit. Both proposals are in the Blankenbaker Station II business park.
Officials with Hosts Development and Setzer did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon.
Copyright 2014 WDRB News. All rights reserved.