By Curtis Morrison
Members of the Louisville Metro Council’s Planning/Zoning Land Design and Development Committee announced in their June 12 meeting one more “work group” will be needed to iron out compromises on Councilman David Yates proposed Landmarks Ordinance before their next meeting.
But how a citizen gets on such a work group is quite mysterious.
Teena Halbig was cold-blooded ignored, like she didn’t exist, when she asked Metro Councilman Tom Owen about the “work group” in person. As in, he wouldn’t open his mouth and speak words to even acknowledge her inquiry.
According to Halbig, this is what happened:
After the meeting ended at 4 p.m., Councilman Owen came over to me. He said, “You have written me.”
I said, “Yes, I have.” Then I said I wanted to ask about the Landmarks Ordinance. I wanted to know when the work group would meet and wanted to ask if they would allow the public to be present and do this out in the open.
He did not answer but gave a panning smile … WOW! Was I ever impressed!
Halbig is one of the citizens who left Metro Council’s last Committee meeting with a mission to not allow the committee members to privately meet in a “work group” only with representatives of the Greater Louisville Association of Realtors and/or the Homebuilders Association to put the final touches on the controversial proposed ordinance.
Concerned citizens are preservationists, but others are just concerned about the precedent set when Metro Council pushes through their own agenda behind closed doors, with little consideration for public input. Two public hearings were held, and the vast majority of input received was against the proposed compromises to the existing landmarks ordinance.
Halbig had emailed Owen in part because on June 14 Metro Council Deputy Clerk Stephen Ott instructed Halbig that he checked with the Assistant Clerk, who didn’t know anything about any planned work group meeting. Ott referred Halbig to Owen’s office.
Frustrated with the run-around, Neighborhood Planning and Preservation, Inc President Martina Kunnecke sent out an email Tuesday to the chair of the Committee, Councilman Jon Ackerson, cc’ing Yates and Owen as well as Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh.
Ackerson’s office emailed Kunnecke back instructing her to direct her inquiry to Councilman David Yates’ office, who had already been cc’d in that email:
Thursday, both Metro Council Clerk Kathy Herron and Assistant to the Metro Council President Lisa Franklin Gray confirmed via email they were not aware of any work group meetings scheduled:
Open records reveal Herron had emailed Owen in April confirming that “work groups” do not fall under the Open Meetings Law, making them open to the public. Herron also specified that “A Work Group has outside experts as part of it and their expertise may be needed during the deliberations.”
But open records also reveal the last time Owen put together a “work group” for the proposed landmarks ordinance, he deliberately rejected one experienced “expert” from being citizen representative.
Shellie Nitsche has filed three landmark petitions in the last four years. Two of those petitions resulted in landmark status for the Dean-Bishop House and The Twig and Leaf Restaurant. The third, the TeePee, is pending a hearing date before the Landmark Commission. When Nitsche emailed Owen asking to be involved in the last ‘work group,’ this was Owen’s “Thanks for your interest”-reply:
Beginning today, the Council is going on break for two weeks. The Planning and Zoning committee, which has six members, is expected to vote on the proposed changes to the landmarks amendment at a July 17 meeting.
Councilman Dan Johnson is the only member of that Committee who has committed to voting against any proposed changes to the existing landmarks ordinance.
Kunnecke, who is president of Neighborhood Planning and Preservation, Inc., says frustration over efforts to compromise the landmarks ordinance is adding fuel to the agenda for her group’s meeting this Saturday called Vision Louisville: Rightsizing from the Grassroots UP!
“Saturday, we’ll be compiling a list of suggestions for right-sizing Louisville that will ultimately be submitted to the Mayor and the Metro Council,” Kunnecke said. “Preserving our historic structures is big piece of that puzzle.”
The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at Bashford Manor Bed and Breakfast, 2227 Bashford Manor Lane and, unlike Metro Council work groups, anyone interested in these issues is welcome to participate.
About Curtis Morrison: Curtis Morrison blogs at Louisville Courant. Morrison is a political activist, active in historic-preservation efforts. He is a board member of Neighborhoods Planning and Preservation.