Topgolf bays

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Louisville Metro Planning Commission will resume a public hearing on Topgolf’s proposal for Oxmoor Center later this month after the clock literally struck midnight on Tuesday.

After 5 ½ hours of sometimes heated debate, the panel hadn’t yet heard from everyone signed up to speak on the golf-and-entertainment company’s plan to rezone land and build its first Kentucky complex where an abandoned Sears buildings stands on the mall’s south side.

The hearing is set to continue at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, October 15 at the Founders Union Building on ShelbyHurst Campus.

Supporters and opponents packed a meeting room there Monday night, making the case for and against Topgolf’s unique type of facility, which includes outdoor hitting bays, a driving range enclosed by large nets and a bar.

Dallas-based Topgolf is seeking to rezone 22 acres of land at Oxmoor, obtain a permit for a driving range and get other city permission to deviate from land-use rules, including building 175-foot-tall poles to anchor the nets.

While Hurstbourne city government formally opposes the project – as do some residents who formed a group called Louisville Neighbors for Responsible Growth – others living in the suburban city said the resistance is overstated and urged planners to recommend that the Metro Council approve the requests.

Michael Mackin of Hurstbourne asked planning commission members to drive through Hurstbourne and observe the number of signs that have appeared in some people’s yards.

“Most of the homes in Hurstbourne do not have a sign that says ‘We Oppose Topgolf,’” he said.

Another Hurstbourne resident, Falls City Beer President Shane Uttich, said he expects property values will rise as a result of Topgolf and said Oxmoor is a perfect location. And he framed the project as an economic development win for the larger Metro area.

"This is the next battle that has to be won to ensure we continue to chip away to win the war,” he said. “Louisville can compete with Cincinnati, with Indianapolis, with Nashville.”

But opponents, led by attorney Steve Porter, contended that Topgolf’s proposal simply doesn’t comply with Louisville’s land development code and comprehensive plan. And they sought to cast doubt on studies commissioned by Topgolf consultants that largely found that neighbors won’t be affected by light, noise and traffic.

(Hurstbourne is paying $3,000 for Porter’s retainer. The city also agreed to spend up to $1,000 for the cost of renting the hearing room.)

Oxmoor is in a “regional center,” which land-use rules set aside for “high intensity commercial development.” Porter argued, however, that Topgolf’s proposal violates a requirement that it fit in with other buildings nearby.

“The structure is totally out of character with the area surrounding it, is not compatible either with the existing structures in or outside the regional center,” he said.

Addressing criticism that opponents don’t want Topgolf near their homes, Porter said: “It doesn’t belong in anybody’s backyard. Not anybody’s.”

Hurstbourne resident Anita Davis said neighbors who are against Topgolf do not oppose development, but she questioned whether the company’s proposal is “appropriately designed and scaled” to fit in with the nearby neighborhoods.

She also described neighbors as fighting against a well-heeled adversary. “We are just common folks coming together to battle Goliath,” she said.

In Louisville, Topgolf would raze and replace a shuttered Sears store at Oxmoor. Plans call for a three-story, 62,103-square-foot building with more than 100 climate-controlled hitting bays and poles for driving range nets of 175 feet.  

"I can stand up here with the bottom of my heart and tell you that we will not have the impact that is perceived by some people,” Tanner Micheli, Topgolf's director of real estate development, said Monday night. “We will be good partners and we will be great community members."

Hurstbourne’s boundaries don’t include Oxmoor, and the suburban city’s government has no say over any rezoning at the mall. But Hurstbourne commissioners voted 5-0 to oppose Topgolf’s request to rezone the land, noting “active and public opposition.”

Hurstbourne Mayor Mary Schneider told WDRB News last month that Topgolf’s proposal for Oxmoor was the “wrong place for the right thing,” and she echoed that Monday.

Another small city, Bellemeade, has passed a resolution supporting Hurstbourne, a move its mayor described as “returning the favor” for help pushing for changes to a development about a decade ago.

Several speakers, including Kentucky Board of Education member Milton Seymour, likened the opposition to Topgolf to efforts to fight Walmart’s proposed western Louisville store. The supermarket giant scrapped its plan in 2016 after Porter filed a lawsuit over the project’s design.

"We've missed a lot of opportunities," Seymour said. He added: "It's time we stopped fooling around and move this city forward."

Public relations executive Tyler Glick was more blunt, blaming Porter for the demise of the Walmart deal and accusing him of killing jobs.

“I’ve had enough of what you’re doing in town,” Glick said.

Reach reporter Marcus Green at 502-585-0825, mgreen@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.