Developer Kevin Cogan is suing members of the Cherokee Triangle Association for damages related to two lawsuits filed against his Willow Grande development.
“At some point, you’ve got to say stop,” said Don Cox, a lawyer at Lynch, Cox, Gilman & Goodman PSC, who is representing Cogan. He says the tab for the court battle is tens of thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of dollars, and that the lawsuit aims to recoup some of those losses.
Meanwhile, Bill Seiller, the lawyer representing the Cherokee Triangle Association, has called Cogan’s lawsuit “despicable,” and an attempt to “squelch” the residents’ efforts to fight the development.
“It’s not terribly unusual for developers to feel citizens should not be able to hold up their project,” he said.
The fight over Willow Grande started in 2012. Plans for the project, a 15-story, 24-unit luxury condominium, were approved by Louisville Metro Council, Louisville Planning and Zoning Commission, Louisville Metro Landmarks Commission and the Cherokee Triangle Architectural Review Committee.
Throughout the process, the Cherokee Triangle Association fought the development, arguing it was too large and did not fit into the neighborhood. After the project received all the approvals it needed, the association filed separate lawsuits in Jefferson County Circuit Court challenging the approvals by the Louisville Metro Landmarks Commission and Louisville Metro Council.
The court eventually consolidated the lawsuits, and on Sept. 13, Jefferson County Circuit Court found in favor of Cogan. The Cherokee Triangle Association last week appealed the decision to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and Cogan’s attorney Cox filed the new lawsuit against the association and 11 of its current and former members.
Cox argued that the neighborhood association didn’t file its lawsuits in order to do what’s best for the neighborhood
“They are trying to run us out of money,” he said. “They are interested in stalling our project.”
That’s why he filed the new lawsuit, which seeks damages and asks a judge to file an injunction preventing further legal action by the named parties. The complaint refers to the association’s lawsuit as “sham litigation.”
Cox said the drawn-out legal process has not impacted any of Cogan’s other developments, including a proposed 106.8-acre mixed-use development in the East End, and the multimillion-dollar high-rise development at Lexington Road and Grinstead Drive. Some residents are also unhappy with plans for the latter development, and one mentioned possibly suing.
The association’s attorney Seiller referred to Cogan’s recently filed complaint as a “SLAPP lawsuit,” which stands for a strategic lawsuit against public participation, aimed at preventing residents from having a voice and exercising their rights under the law.
“I am sure that the court will not have any trouble deciding the case in our favor,” he said. “I am looking forward to litigating the case.”
Seiller added that residents of the Cherokee Triangle tried to work with Cogan before resorting to litigation. “He had no willingness to bend at all.”
The planning commission originally vetoed the project, but approved it after Cogan cut the number of floors from 17 to 15.