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Sullivan University moving forward with plan to use five acres at Farmington for parking lot

by Curtis Morrison

Farmingon is the green space on the right, with Sullivan University on the left.

(Editor’s note: This post was updated at 2 p.m. on January 31. The original post misstated the relationship between Lisa Sullivan Zaring and her brother, Glenn Sullivan, Sullivan University’s president.)

Louisville’s Sullivan University  plans to use five of the 18 acres remaining of the Farmington Historic Plantation for a proposed 300-space parking lot the two entities would share.

Sullivan officials want more parking for students and staff, while Farmington wants more revenue and event parking.

The proposed parking lot is one of the few remaining green spaces of comparable size within the Watterson Expressway that’s not already a park.

Farmington Historic Plantation is nestled just behind Sullivan College, northeast of the intersection of Bardstown Road and the Watterson Expressway.

Other components of the plan include widening of a fire lane so Farmington can be better protected by fire department, and a berm with plantings to minimize the impact of the proposed parking lot on the view from Farmington and neighboring homes in the City of Wellington.

The plan’s fate will be determined in February as it undergoes the scrutiny of two regulatory entities: the Landmarks Commission and the Board of Zoning Adjustment, or BOZA.

Farmington circa 1850

Farmington has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1972, so pushback from preservationists is likely.

This is an except from a statement from Farmington expert Bryan Bush, author of “Lincoln and the Speeds”:

I am appalled actually they are considering putting a parking lot on the historic Farmington grounds. If the property continues to be sold off, only the house will remain, and Louisville residents will lose the opportunity for the property to teach others what plantation life was like at Farmington.

Hurdle #1 – Individual Landmarks Architectural Review Committee

Because Farmington is listed as a local landmark, the proposed parking lot needs to be approved by Metro Louisville’s Individual Landmarks Architectural Review Committee (IL-ARC). The plan was on the agenda of the Jan. 23 meeting. The Landmark Commission’s staff recommended the Board approve a Certificate of Appropriateness for the plan with conditions. Due to a lack of a quorum, however, the Committee did not vote.

The item has been rescheduled to be considered Mon., Feb. 4 at noon, at 444 S. Fifth St. in conference room 101 of the city government building. Committee meetings are open to the public.

The six members of the IL-ARC committee include: Bob Vice, Chair, Daniel Preston, Jay Stottman, Edie Bingham, Jim Mims and Herb Shulhafer. Since Shulhafer is listed on the 2011 tax return of Historic Homes Foundation, Inc. as a board member and “Farmington Regent,” we expect he’ll be abstaining.

Landmarks Commission staff proposes the IL-ARC committee approve the proposal with the following conditions:

1. – That site work is documented in concert with any archaeological work, completed or undone.

2. – That developers coordinate with Staff Landscape Architect on vegetation, lighting and other Land Development Code issues, as part of any final plan submission.

3. – That the new parking lot is significantly reduced to retain the rolling, pastoral front yard area which is indicative of a formal plantation site.

4. – That imperious paving material is used instead of asphalt. Chosen paving material should be accessed for color blending with site, re-introduction of vegetation when not parked on, and irrigation.

5. – Care taken to adequately address lighting needed for parking lot, while at same time to dissuade light pollution to the historic site.

6. – That creative ways are used to address tree and landscaping which does not diminish important view sheds.

7. – That water retention basin proposed for southeast edge of side does not adversely affect Beargrass Creek which runs through the site. Also care taken to work with Metropolitan Sewer District to address sum drainage runoff from both proposed retention basin and State Highway Department right of way (Watterson Expressway sound wall / gutter collector.

8. – That proposal does not diminish interpretation of outbuildings associated with Plantation main house.

9. – That parking does not extend eastward of large barn.

10. – That security concerns for the house and grounds are evaluated form standpoint of lighting, vehicular access, and pedestrian access, during houses’ operation and time of closure.

11. – That Montrose Avenue entry / access point remains service use only.

12. – That pedestrian paths are maintained, which are separated from parking lot paths.

13. – That auto access roads which connect to private drive for plantations, are carefully studied and sensitively located.

14. – That raised traffic (planting) islands are not built as part of the parking lot development.

15. – That overall parking scenarios for Sullivan University are explored, including the future construction of parking garages.

Condition #1 may prove important. Relative to the lives of the original plantation owners, the Speed family, little is known about the African American slaves who lived there and who were responsible for making Farmington the successful hemp plantation for which it is was known.

According to Farmington’s website:

 Slave research at Farmington continues with an archaeological dig. The dig, in the area where slave cabins may once have stood, has uncovered many artifacts from the mid-1800s that were possibly slave possessions. Of particular note is a pierced coin marked with an “X”, a sign frequently used by enslaved African Americans. Although this research is still in the preliminary stages, it should provide clues to the lives of enslaved African Americans at Farmington. Similar digs at other historic properties have yielded information about slave activities, diet and religion. Most written documentation does not include the slaves’ point of view, but the artifacts found at Farmington may help to illuminate their experience.

Condition #4 may be a fail as written. “Imperious” means arrogant and domineering. Nothing against arrogant paving material. “Impervious” means not letting water through. The adjective the Landmarks’ staff was probably looking for is “pervious.” Cynthia Johnson, the Preservation Officer of the Historic Landmarks and Preservation Districts Commission assures Insider Louisville she’ll make the case manager aware of that error.

Condition #7 is slightly misleading, as Beargrass Creek does not run through the site. A stream leading into Beargrass runs through both Farmington and Sullivan. However, the entire area is in the watershed for Beargrass Creek.

Metro Councilman Brent Ackerson, whose 26th district includes Farmington, tells us he’s prohibited from commenting on planning and zoning issues, but his office does plans to have someone in attendance at the Feb. 4 Individual Landmarks Architectural Review Committee meeting.

 Hurdle #2 – Board of Zoning Adjustment

Farmington’s property is zoned R-5 (single family residential), so the proposed off-street parking would thus require a conditional use permit from Board of Zoning Adjustment (BOZA). “Sullivan University off-street parking” was listed on the agenda for Monday’s BOZA meeting, but Jon E. Crumbie, a planner with the Department of Codes and Regulations, explained to us in an email why it has been taken off the agenda:

The (BOZA) meeting was postponed because Landmarks needs to hear the case first and they did not have a quorum at their scheduled meeting last week. The next BOZA this case can go on will be February 18. New notices will be sent when the meeting is scheduled.

Hurdle #3 – Factors the community should be considering

Farmington, which hosts lots of weddings, currently refers party planners to contact Sullivan two weeks prior to an event rental if more parking is needed than what Farmington has to offer. As grant money has become more and more scarce, Farmington is already relying more on revenue from hosting events.

Sullivan University is a for-profit college, benefiting from explosive growth in part tied to an abundant availability of government-guaranteed student loans and a job market that’s more dismal than anyone wants to talk about. Sullivan’s day students who commute to the school by car can currently purchase parking permits for $28 per quarter. Night students pay $7 per night of class.

When the lot adjacent to Sullivan is full, students now park in what’s called West Campus Student Parking. Those shy about using the Bardstown Road crosswalk can take advantage of a shuttle that Sullivan says makes a round trip every ten minutes. (Parking information courtesy of Sullivan.)

Unlike students at the University of Louisville who ride TARC for free, Sullivan students must pay full fare to ride TARC. While the University of Louisville gives incentives for students to utilize public transit, Sullivan only encourages their students to use it.

(Reporter’s note: Our questions to Sullivan University spokesperson Thomas Whittinghill were met with this response Monday morning:

Thanks of your interest. I have a message out to Glenn Sullivan, he has been most involved with our longstanding partnership with Farmington, and has the most up-to-date info. The lot will be used by Sullivan and by Farmington, when it hosts larger events. What is your deadline?

We responded our deadline was Monday night, and did not hear back.)

Other possible issues:

The proposal to the Landmarks Commission listed S. Butch Shaw as the applicant, and Historic Homes Foundation, Inc. as Farmington’s owner. But according to Historic Homes’ 2011 tax return and the Kentucky Secretary of State, Shaw is the treasurer and Guthrie Zaring is the president.

Zaring is the husband of Lisa Sullivan Zaring, who is a member of Sullivan University’s board of directors.

Sullivan was founded by Zaring’s grandfather and great-grandfather in 1962. Her brother, Glenn Sullivan, is the current president.

Does Farmington really need money?

Intuitively, there’s little doubt any charity does not need money in this economy, but let’s look at the numbers.

Historic Homes Foundation, Inc. owns and operates not only Farmington, but also Whitehall and Edison House. According to their tax return, the non-profit ended its fiscal year on August 31, 2011 with $176, 589 in cash, $467,756 in publicly traded securities and $25,258 in other securities.

In that same return, Historic Homes reported $552,752 in revenue for the year. While that’s up $27,017 from their prior year, it’s down $100,000 to $300,000 from the prior four years.

Finally, if the deal goes through, the city will benefit … a tiny bit.

Per Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator Tony Lindauer, there is a small advantage with the parking lot for the city – revenue.:

 Curtis, It appears Sullivan is trying to get a zoning change before they attempt to engage in a leasehold agreement with Farmington for parking. That parcel is presently zoned residential. If a zoning change occurs and a lease is executed, either Farmington or Sullivan would be subject to the taxes on that lease but not the land. Depends how the lease is written. It wouldn’t be much money but it’s still revenue.

Tony Lindauer

 

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  • l stewart

    I continue to be confused with Item #4. ” imperious paving material is used instead of asphalt”. Imperious?? Traditional asphalt is impervious which can contribute to rainwater runoff problems. I would think that pervious paving materials would be a better choice.

  • https://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Louisville

    I am glad this plan is apparently being thought through carefully. If a plan can be devised that satisfies the concerns of local historian Bryan Bush (who, after all, has written about Farmington), I’m sure preservationists can be sanguine about it.

    People need a place to park for events, no question. Let’s hope that if it happens, it will be not only tastefully done, but done in accordance with preservation, environmental and cultural protocols.

  • http://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Lou

    I am glad this plan is apparently being thought through carefully. If a plan can be devised that satisfies the concerns of local historian Bryan Bush (who, after all, has written about Farmington), I’m sure preservationists can be sanguine about it.

    People need a place to park for events, no question. Let’s hope that if it happens, it will be not only tastefully done, but done in accordance with preservation, environmental and cultural protocols.

  • https://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Louisville

    I have a strong notion that ‘pervious’ is what they meant.

  • http://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Lou

    I have a strong notion that ‘pervious’ is what they meant.

  • Jeremy Mott

    Here’s to hoping the proposal stumbles badly on one or all of the hurdles mentioned above. Parking may be scarce but the fact that Sullivan doesn’t even attempt some sort of TARC student subsidy does not help its case in my book. Would free TARC service ameliorate “the need” for more parking? Most likely not, but it is a pretty backwards position for a university or historic property to push for paving over a landmark without first taking some sort of steps to at least help with urban and preservation issues involved here.

    To say that “People need a place to park for events, no question.” implies that it is a foregone conclusion that expensive, scenery/greenspace-destroying parking lots are the solution to the problem; i.e. parking is the egg to the successfully-run event’s chicken. But if too many sacrifices are placed at the altar of the car (as they too often are), we won’t have any places around worth visiting. With our cars.

  • Jeremy Mott

    Here’s to hoping the proposal stumbles badly on one or all of the hurdles mentioned above. Parking may be scarce but the fact that Sullivan doesn’t even attempt some sort of TARC student subsidy does not help its case in my book. Would free TARC service ameliorate “the need” for more parking? Most likely not, but it is a pretty backwards position for a university or historic property to push for paving over a landmark without first taking some sort of steps to at least help with urban and preservation issues involved here.

    To say that “People need a place to park for events, no question.” implies that it is a foregone conclusion that expensive, scenery/greenspace-destroying parking lots are the solution to the problem; i.e. parking is the egg to the successfully-run event’s chicken. But if too many sacrifices are placed at the altar of the car (as they too often are), we won’t have any places around worth visiting. With our cars.

  • http://www.facebook.com/traci.badenhausen Traci Badenhausen

    An informational correction for you: Glenn Sullivan, who is Sullivan University’s President, is not Lisa Sullivan Zarings father – he is her brother. Their father is AR Sullivan, Chancellor of the University…

  • http://www.facebook.com/traci.badenhausen Traci Badenhausen

    An informational correction for you: Glenn Sullivan, who is Sullivan University’s President, is not Lisa Sullivan Zarings father – he is her brother. Their father is AR Sullivan, Chancellor of the University…

  • Pingback: Farmington follow: Amplifications and clarifications on Sullivan/Historic Homes relationship » Insider Louisville

  • Msradell

    The proposal actually sounds like a win for both parties. Farmington gets the parking it needs without having to pay for it, and Sullivan gets additional parking, they also need. As long as the area is landscaped nicely and doesn’t create a runoff problem, I don’t see any problem with the whole proposal.

  • Msradell

    The proposal actually sounds like a win for both parties. Farmington gets the parking it needs without having to pay for it, and Sullivan gets additional parking, they also need. As long as the area is landscaped nicely and doesn’t create a runoff problem, I don’t see any problem with the whole proposal.

  • http://louisvillecourant.com/ curtis morrison

    Thank you for that clarification.

  • curtismorrison

    Thank you for that clarification.

  • https://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Louisville

    Since we are in the personal transportation era, still, and facilities have a necessity for parking, then I think we should look at this in a pragmatic manner.

    However, as I insinuated, I would like this idea considered very carefully. For example, if this idea transgresses in any way on potential archaeological excavation on the site, I say “no go”. I’m not an automatic “yes” just due to the need for additional parking, which despite your position, still is without question.

  • http://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Lou

    Since we are in the personal transportation era, still, and facilities have a necessity for parking, then I think we should look at this in a pragmatic manner.

    However, as I insinuated, I would like this idea considered very carefully. For example, if this idea transgresses in any way on potential archaeological excavation on the site, I say “no go”. I’m not an automatic “yes” just due to the need for additional parking, which despite your position, still is without question.

  • Jeremy Mott

    So transgressing on a potential archaeological excavation is the only real case against this? What about, as Curtis mentions: “The proposed parking lot is one of the few remaining green spaces of comparable size within the Watterson Expressway that’s not already a park.”? Avoiding impacts to archaeology seem a low bar.

    Additional parking is certainly without question, when all questions are posed and answered from within-the-box thinking.

    I’m well aware the ‘personal transportation era’ we’re in. I’m also unfortunately all too aware of what the “pragmatism” of parking lots has left in its wake across our city.

  • Jeremy Mott

    So transgressing on a potential archaeological excavation is the only real case against this? What about, as Curtis mentions: “The proposed parking lot is one of the few remaining green spaces of comparable size within the Watterson Expressway that’s not already a park.”? Avoiding impacts to archaeology seem a low bar.

    Additional parking is certainly without question, when all questions are posed and answered from within-the-box thinking.

    I’m well aware the ‘personal transportation era’ we’re in. I’m also unfortunately all too aware of what the “pragmatism” of parking lots has left in its wake across our city.

  • http://louisvillecourant.com/ curtis morrison

    Jeremy- Good point. I imagine pragmatism was Abramson’s justification for giving Cordish the option to buy Founder’s Square Park for $1. Reminds me- I need to check and see when that expires so we don’t renew it.

  • curtismorrison

    Jeremy- Good point. I imagine pragmatism was Abramson’s justification for giving Cordish the option to buy Founder’s Square Park for $1. Reminds me- I need to check and see when that expires so we don’t renew it.

  • http://louisvillecourant.com/ curtis morrison

    So you’re basing your approval on assertion that Sullivan and Farmington both “need” more parking. What, precisely, leads you to believe that is the case?

  • curtismorrison

    So you’re basing your approval on assertion that Sullivan and Farmington both “need” more parking. What, precisely, leads you to believe that is the case?

  • https://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Louisville

    Re: “So transgressing on a potential archaeological excavation is the only real case against this?”

    I said it was one example. ‘Example’ means a single case of a potential many.

    As for park space, Louisville is teeming with it. I don’t understand the point about that, because this parking lot surely wouldn’t take up all of Farmington’s land. If it can be completed with proper aesthetics and attention to historical/environmental/etc. concerns, I don’t have an issue with it.

    By the way, you and I actually agree that there are too many parking lots, but I thought the problem was too many parking lots in downtown, not in the area we’re speaking of. If you have an alternative idea for people being able to park, given the necessity for it explained by trustworthy folks (no reason to mistrust them), you have the opportunity to offer them.

  • http://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Lou

    Re: “So transgressing on a potential archaeological excavation is the only real case against this?”

    I said it was one example. ‘Example’ means a single case of a potential many.

    As for park space, Louisville is teeming with it. I don’t understand the point about that, because this parking lot surely wouldn’t take up all of Farmington’s land. If it can be completed with proper aesthetics and attention to historical/environmental/etc. concerns, I don’t have an issue with it.

    By the way, you and I actually agree that there are too many parking lots, but I thought the problem was too many parking lots in downtown, not in the area we’re speaking of. If you have an alternative idea for people being able to park, given the necessity for it explained by trustworthy folks (no reason to mistrust them), you have the opportunity to offer them.

  • https://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Louisville

    If you want to link the honest pragmatism I express in this matter to the ‘pragmatism’ you apply to the oft-rogue actions of a mayor I frequently despised, publicly, go ahead. Comes off as a bit silly.

  • http://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Lou

    If you want to link the honest pragmatism I express in this matter to the ‘pragmatism’ you apply to the oft-rogue actions of a mayor I frequently despised, publicly, go ahead. Comes off as a bit silly.

  • https://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Louisville

    Why can’t they be trusted to state what their needs are? I honestly don’t understand this second-guessing.

  • http://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Lou

    Why can’t they be trusted to state what their needs are? I honestly don’t understand this second-guessing.

  • Jeremy Mott

    I actually did throw out some long-shot alternatives in an earlier post that seems to have been snagged in moderation somewhere. I won’t duplicate it all here in case that post shows up, but there would be a possible opportunity in sharing the adjacent Gardiner Lane shopping center’s lot. Maybe the center could dynamically price out any unused capacity to be used by students? That could be a win-win and result in a more accurate, market-based price for spots, while using existing capacity. Pie in the sky, I’m sure, but what about a pedestrian flyover bridge over Bardstown road linking the parking facilities?

    You must remember, what we are talking about here is not parking spaces, pure and simple. (There are always spots – they just may be more distant or more expensive than people would prefer.) We’re talking about making parking as cheap and overly convenient as absolutely possible, externalities be damned.

  • Jeremy Mott

    I actually did throw out some long-shot alternatives in an earlier post that seems to have been snagged in moderation somewhere. I won’t duplicate it all here in case that post shows up, but there would be a possible opportunity in sharing the adjacent Gardiner Lane shopping center’s lot. Maybe the center could dynamically price out any unused capacity to be used by students? That could be a win-win and result in a more accurate, market-based price for spots, while using existing capacity. Pie in the sky, I’m sure, but what about a pedestrian flyover bridge over Bardstown road linking the parking facilities?

    You must remember, what we are talking about here is not parking spaces, pure and simple. (There are always spots – they just may be more distant or more expensive than people would prefer.) We’re talking about making parking as cheap and overly convenient as absolutely possible, externalities be damned.

  • https://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Louisville

    Sounds like good ideas, Jeremy. I hope you’ll offer them at the meeting or at least in writing to the commissions involved. I’m just not interested in dismissing their necessity for additional parking, as some seem to be doing. I would actually prefer they didn’t use additional Farmington land if there are other viable options, and especially if they can’t allay the many related concerns with paving over more of that key historical property. We’re closer in our attitudes than you may realize.

    I don’t care if their parking is very convenient or very cheap. But it does appear they need access to more of it, and I do hope they explore all possibilities to limit negative impacts.

  • http://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Lou

    Sounds like good ideas, Jeremy. I hope you’ll offer them at the meeting or at least in writing to the commissions involved. I’m just not interested in dismissing their necessity for additional parking, as some seem to be doing. I would actually prefer they didn’t use additional Farmington land if there are other viable options, and especially if they can’t allay the many related concerns with paving over more of that key historical property. We’re closer in our attitudes than you may realize.

    I don’t care if their parking is very convenient or very cheap. But it does appear they need access to more of it, and I do hope they explore all possibilities to limit negative impacts.

  • https://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Louisville

    self-delete — I thought comments went missing, but they’re now up again.

  • http://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Lou

    Jeremy and I had additional responses that I thought were useful to the discussion, but they have disappeared.

  • http://louisvillecourant.com/ curtis morrison

    I need Barack Obama’s cell number.

  • curtismorrison

    I need Barack Obama’s cell number.

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