Topgolf bays

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A judge ruled Thursday that Louisville Metro government’s approvals of the Topgolf at Oxmoor project were proper, a win for the golf-and-entertainment complex planned at Oxmoor Center.

The order by Jefferson Circuit Judge Ann Bailey Smith came weeks after lawyers for Topgolf and Hurstbourne neighbors made their case in court.

At that time, residents’ attorney Steve Porter argued that Topgolf did not properly clear the Louisville Metro Planning Commission and Metro Council – in part because the companies behind the project used “fraudulent names of entities that do not exist.”

Porter told Bailey Smith that the entire process needed to start over.

But in her ruling, the judge said the residents who filed a lawsuit challenging the rezoning and other decisions couldn’t cite any law or previous case to support nullifying the entire process just because of a “naming error.”

“The only goal the plaintiffs would achieve in having the court invalidate the actions of the Commission and the Metro Council would be that of unnecessary delay of the Topgolf development, a result that is manifestly unjust,” she wrote.

Porter said in a statement that he and his clients are "disappointed and believe the Court's decision is misguided." An appeal is possible, he added, although no decision has been made.

Hurstbourne residents have 30 days to appeal the ruling. 

In her ruling, Bailey Smith also failed to be convinced by Porter’s arguments that lighting and traffic studies were flawed or incomplete.

Looking at pictures and taking other testimony into account, she did not find that Topgolf would be too bright for the neighbors. 

She acknowledged that the fact that light "will trespass beyond defined boundaries is predictable to an acceptable degree of mathematical certainty." But she couldn't say the lighting study's conclusions were "untrustworthy without definitive expert evidence that rebuts the calculations and factual assumptions upon which it is based."

In a joint statement, Topgolf and Oxmoor Center called it a “tremendous day” for themselves and Louisville.

“The court has now confirmed what we have long known as true: Topgolf is right for Oxmoor Center. We applaud Judge Ann Bailey Smith, the Louisville Metro Council, and Planning Commission for their thoughtful and thorough evaluation of the facts, studies, and science behind the project throughout this year-long process.

“We look forward to breaking ground and bringing this exciting development to Louisville,” the statement said.

A spokesman for the project, Gary Gerdemann, said he couldn't immediately say how the ruling affects the project's next steps, given that an appeal could occur.

It's expected to take 18 months for Topgolf to get all its permits and erect the building at the site of the former Sears department store, which would be razed.

The ruling is the latest in Dallas-based Topgolf’s saga to build its first Kentucky facility at Oxmoor. Some Hurstbourne residents and others opposed the plans, saying the complex would create traffic, light and noise concerns.

Studies done by Topgolf consultants found those worries to be largely unfounded, but neighbors sought to discredit the work as biased.

Despite the opposition, including from the suburban cities of Hurstbourne and Bellemeade, Topgolf’s requests to rezone land and get other approvals moved along easily.

Following two public hearings and nearly 11 hours of testimony, the planning commission voted 9-0 last October to recommend that the Metro Council approve the Topgolf plan. The company sought a zoning change, a permit for a driving range, lights that aren’t fully shielded and net poles of 175 feet -- or 25 feet taller than what is typically allowed.

The council approved the rezoning on a 20-3 vote in November.

David Schuh and Jason Riley contributed.

Reach reporter Marcus Green at 502-585-0825, mgreen@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.