Several items to be voted on Thursday at Louisville Topgolf meeting

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In the final approval needed for Topgolf, the Louisville Metro Council gave the golf-and-entertainment company permission to move forward with a driving range at Oxmoor Center.

The council voted 20-3 to rezone 22 acres of land at Oxmoor, allow a permit for a driving range and give other exemptions from land-use rules, such as 175-foot-tall poles that would anchor Topgolf nets.

The dissenting votes were from Marilyn Parker, the Republican who represents the area, and her GOP colleagues Julie Denton and Stuart Benson. Two members didn't vote, while council member Angela Leet abstained because Topgolf is a client of her company.

The action caps months of debate and objections from some living nearby who worry about increased noise, light and traffic from the proposed facility. Topgolf would build at the vacant Sears building in the rear of the shopping mall.

"Obviously we felt very good about the decision that was made," Tanner Micheli, Topgolf's real estate director, told reporters after the meeting. He said the council "weighed in favor of what the facts showed."

In a debate that stretched for longer than two hours, council members required the facility’s poles to be taken down within six months in the event of a bankruptcy or other closure, but it stopped short of adding requirements that lights be dimmed by 25 percent when Topgolf closes each night.

Topgolf has agreed to dim the field lights by 50 percent at closing and turn them off two hours later.

The council also turned back a proposal to require that Topgolf close at midnight. 

The pole removal mandate, which requires a bond estimated at $4,000 per year, is not a deal breaker, Micheli said. 

But the council’s decision doesn’t put Topgolf in the clear. Earlier this month, six residents of Hurstbourne filed a lawsuit challenging the Oxmoor plans; opponents also have 30 days to sue over Thursday night’s council action.

Steve Porter, their attorney, said he expects a decision by Christmas on whether to file a lawsuit.

Speaking to reporters, Porter said council members' lack of information about the Topgolf plan shows why the council should have held a public hearing at which they could have asked questions about the case. 

"Therefore, this decision made tonight was arbitrary and capricious and in violation of the law," he said. 

The suit already in Jefferson Circuit Court claims Topgolf’s lighting doesn’t meet Metro Louisville rules and alleges that “non-existent or dissolved” entities applied for the project. It wants a judge to strike the planning commission’s October approval of the lighting package, which includes lights that are not fully shielded and brighter than normally allowed.

Topgolf said in court documents filed this week that it will ask a judge to make the neighbors pay to produce the planning commission’s record of the case because “they bear the ultimate burden of proof in this action.”

Topgolf’s plans prompted some neighbors in Hurstbourne and the small city’s election commission to oppose the project. State Sen. Julie Raque Adams, who represents the area, wrote in a letter to the planning commission that the project is “grossly out of context” with nearby neighborhoods.

The planning commission held two public hearings in October, spanning nearly 11 hours of comments from Topgolf supporters and detractors, as well as arguments from lawyers representing both sides.

But Denton, who voted against the ordinance, said the council was rushing through its decision while there are questions left unasked. 

Whether it's the biodigester once proposed for western Louisville or the Topgolf near Hurstbourne, Denton said the council ought to be sensitive to neighbors' concerns. 

"Folks, we've got to start thinking about the people who's lives we're impacting," she said.

Related:

Debate – but no vote – on Topgolf proposal

Oxmoor or bust? Topgolf pitch for mall heads to 18th hole

Topgolf plans first Kentucky driving range at Oxmoor

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Digital Reporter

Marcus Green joined WDRB News in 2013 after 12 years as a staff writer at the Louisville Courier-Journal. He reports on transportation and local and state government.