Developers sue Louisville Metro Council over rebuffed low-income apartments near Prospect
LDG Multifamily claims the council passed a flawed ordinance in October to reject a zoning change for the 198-unit Prospect Cove
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The developer of a planned low-income apartment complex near Prospect sued the Louisville Metro Council and city government on Monday, seeking to overturn what it claims is a flawed ordinance that denied a zoning change.
LDG Multifamily LLC also alleges that the council, which narrowly voted in October against the rezoning after city planners unanimously endorsed it, violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and the federal Fair Housing Act.
The council’s actions were “unlawful and discriminatory,” the company says in the lawsuit filed in Jefferson Circuit Court.
“LDG is really about building quality housing for quality people in all areas of town,” co-founder Chris Dischinger said in an interview. “We feel like that we were wronged in this decision by Metro Council.”
Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell's office, which represents Metro government, could not immediately comment because it had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit, spokesman Josh Abner said.
But council member Scott Reed, who sponsored the ordinance, said in a statement that the council's actions “upheld the tenants" of the city's comprehensive land-use plan called Cornerstone 2020.
"Anyone who reads the ordinance passed last month by the Louisville Metro Council will understand the series of issues outlined that proved the Prospect Cove proposal wasn’t appropriate for the site," said Reed, R-16th District.
"I worked with the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office in drafting this ordinance and did so using information gathered through the hearing process. I am confident that this bipartisan legislative decision by the Metro Council will be upheld," he said.
LDG sought to reclassify 9.6 acres for a 198-unit development called Prospect Cove near River Road and Timber Ridge Drive. Renters would be at least 55 years old with limited incomes, meeting an affordable housing goal of the city’s comprehensive land-use plan, the company argues.
But some nearby residents, and Prospect Mayor John Evans, fiercely opposed the project because of anticipated design, traffic and other impacts. The buildings at Prospect Cove would be about 40 feet tall and 500 feet long, the lawsuit says.
(The site previously had been rezoned in 2008 for two 45-foot tall condominium buildings, an office building and a bank that were never built, according to the lawsuit.)
People living in and near Prospect also raised concerns about low-income residents bringing crime into the area, according to comments made at public hearings and meetings and cited in court documents.
“We just feel like this is a case of ‘NIMBY,’ of ‘not in my backyard’ – people trying to fight who is going to live in the property and not the property that we designed,” Dischinger said.
“Quite frankly we were appalled at a lot of the comments we heard,” he said.
LDG redesigned its apartment building in response to planning commission concerns. The commission, by a 6-0 vote, then approved the rezoning and sent it on to Metro Council. The council typically agrees with planners’ recommendations.
But Reed authored an ordinance aimed at denying LDG’s request for a zoning change. His measure said planners had approved a rezoning that fan afoul of Cornerstone 2020.
For example, Reed’s ordinance said LDG’s proposed buildings weren’t compatible with other developments in the area. But LDG argues in the lawsuit that Reed’s ordinance makes a “demonstrably false” claim that there are no similarly sized residential buildings within two miles.
In fact, the developer says, “buildings of substantially similar height” at Harrods Creek Overlook are less than a half-mile away from the Prospect Cove site, and buildings of the same height had gotten prior approval.
It dismisses other justifications in Reed’s ordinance as “arbitrary and unsupported by substantial evidence.” In issuing a statement, Reed declined to take questions during an interview.
The ordinance denying the rezoning passed 14-11, with four Democrats voting with the council’s entire Republican caucus, including Angela Leet, a candidate for Louisville mayor. All of the ‘no’ votes were from Democrats.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a Democrat, did not sign the ordinance in a show of support for the planning commission’s findings.
In addition to asking a judge to nullify the ordinance, LDG is seeking unspecified other costs.