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Sale of Farmington land to Sullivan University delayed one week

by Curtis Morrison

The Historic Homes Foundation, Inc. and Sullivan University Systems will have to wait another week to learn if Metro Louisville’s Individual Landmarks Commission Architectural Review Committee will approve a 300-space parking lot on the grounds of the historic Farmington plantation.

The committee met Monday at noon, but ran out of time before committee members’ questions were answered.

A technical “no” vote was recorded.

Further discussion and a vote are expected at a meeting scheduled for Mon., Feb. 11 at 11:45 a.m.

That meeting is set for the same location, 444 S. Fifth St. in conference room 101 of the city government building.

Committee meetings are open to the public.

Sullivan is seeking a Certificate of Appropriateness for the plan, necessary as Farmington has a local landmark designation. If they receive that certificate, the next hurdle will be selling the plan to the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BOZA), as Farmington’s plantation is zoned R-5 (single family residential).

According to Sullivan University’s attorney, Grover Potts, it was Farmington officials who reached out to Sullivan, and not the other way around. As evidence, Potts produced to Monday’s Committee a letter from Farmington’s Herb Shulhafer to Sullivan University, dated January 2012.

What Potts did not make clear, but Insider Louisville broke last week, was that the president of Historic Homes Foundation at that time was Guthrie Zaring, husband of Sullivan board member Lisa Sullivan Zaring, brother-in-law to Glenn Sullivan, president of the university.

Sullivan University Systems is a for-profit corporation.

Since both the Historic Homes Foundation and Sullivan University Systems declined interviews last week, we misreported an important detail of the proposed plan: Sullivan doesn’t want to lease the property, but own it.

When asked why Sullivan wouldn’t want to lease the property on Monday, Glenn Sullivan said:

Long term, if we getting into a 20-30 year lease, and we develop the property further on the assumption that we’ll have the property use over here to use for parking only 20-30 years, that does it real harm. We would have overbuilt.

Contextual clarification: Sullivan is not saying he intends to develop the Farmington property beyond parking (we don’t think), but implying that the Farmington parking would create an opportunity for Sullivan to further develop the land they currently own now used for parking. This may include not only adjacent land to Farmington, but also their West Campus Parking on Gardiner Lane.

Metro Louisville’s Director of Codes and Regulations Jim Mims is a voting member of the Individual Landmarks Architectural Review Committee. Monday he disclosed that his engineering firm has done work on multiple buildings for Sullivan University in the past.

Mims told the committee Monday, “I don’t think that’s going to affect my involvement in this discussion.”

While trying to understand the plan’s components, committee member Edith Bingham asked, “why would you not use grass paving on the entire parking area?”

Milestone Design Group’s Mark Madison, representing Sullivan, explained,”the final part of that is…we got some pricing on that. The grass pavers are about 40 percent more than the asphalt.”

(Editor’s note: Curtis Morrison is also a board member of Neighborhood Planning and Preservation.)

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