Louisville Metro Council voted 20 to 3 to approve the contentious Topgolf project at Oxmoor Center Thursday evening, but the city and the developer could face another lawsuit challenging that decision.
Only Councilwoman Marilyn Parker, R-18, Councilwoman Julie Denton, R-19 and Councilman Stuart Benson, R-20, voted against Topgolf. Councilwoman Angela Leet, R-7, abstained because of a conflict of interest.
The development was approved with a new condition added: Topgolf must secure a bond that would pay for the removal of the 175-foot netting poles should the entertainment center shutter. The binding element was passed with a split vote of 12 to 11.
Several council members who voted in favor of the binding element, including Parker, Councilman Kevin Kramer, R-11, and Councilman Vitalis Lanshima, D-21, said the bond would not cost enough to break the bank for a company like Topgolf.
Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26, said the binding element is not an outrageous ask. “The worst message we could send is ‘Come to Louisville, we will let you do anything,’ ” he said.
Councilman David Yates, D-25, argued that requiring the bond amounts to red tape and stated that other developers are watching Louisville.
“Little things like this stifle that growth,” he said.
Tanner Micheli, director of real estate development for Topgolf, said the bond would not hold the company back from building at Oxmoor Center but called it “unfortunate.” He praised the Metro Council’s decision to approve the project overall.
“Obviously, very excited about the outcome, I think; it is the culmination of a lot of hard work,” Micheli said.
Two other possible binding elements failed. One that would have required Topgolf to close at midnight every day was voted down 20 to 3. The other, which would have required its field lights be dimmed to 25 percent at closing time, failed in a tight 12-to-11 vote. Topgolf has agreed to dim its lights by 50 percent at closing time and turn them off completely within two hours of closure.
Approval from the Metro Council wasn’t the final shot the developers needed to sink in order to move forward. The project, a 62,103-square-foot entertainment center with 102 climate-controlled hitting bays and food and drink service, still faces at least one legal hurdle.
“We’ll just take it one step at a time,” Micheli said, deferring comment on the lawsuit to Topgolf’s attorney Clifford Ashburner. “We are committed to this project,” he added.
Attorney Steve Porter, who already has filed one lawsuit related to the project at Oxmoor Center, said he will confer with his clients about possibly filing a second lawsuit related to Metro Council’s vote Thursday night.
“The important issue tonight was they questioned and discussed for two hours and asked all kinds of questions and made admissions that they did not have enough knowledge about lighting … they didn’t have enough knowledge about the height of poles,” Porter said, noting that the council could have allowed for limited testimony from himself and Topgolf’s attorney Clifford Ashburner to answer those questions. “They showed tonight that they did not have knowledge of this project … and therefore that decision is arbitrary and capricious.”
Six residents, who say they represent others in opposition to the development, filed a lawsuit against the city, Planning Commission, Topgolf and others on Nov. 19.
The current lawsuit argues that the Planning Commission’s approval of waivers related to lighting and a revised detailed district development plan violated the city’s comprehensive plan. It also states that the city should not have accepted the application to build a Topgolf in the first place because two entities listed on the document aren’t registered with the state.
The residents who filed the suit said they had no other choice following the Planning Commission’s decision because they believe light pollution from the development will interfere with their ability to enjoy their property.
“We’re the ones who came here first. We’re the neighbors. We’re the community of Hurstbourne. We need to preserve our character … Why should we have to go inside with our families?” Peggy Barber, one of the plaintiffs, told media last week.
Those opposed to it have also raised concerns about noise, traffic and the business’s late hours of operation. While they have said they are not against Topgolf coming to Louisville, they have said they don’t want it at Oxmoor Center.
Topgolf representatives have said that the company will build at Oxmoor Center or won’t build in Louisville at all.
Those in support of the Topgolf project at Oxmoor Center have said it will help the mall succeed into the future as big-box retail stores decline and will provide a new amenity for residents and visitors.
Following the Metro Council vote, the chamber of commerce Greater Louisville Inc. issued its support.
“Louisville Metro Council’s vote tonight to approve Topgolf at Oxmoor Center demonstrates that Louisville is open for business. We applaud their decision and look forward to the construction of this exciting attraction in one of Louisville’s largest commercial centers along with the many jobs it will create,” Kent Oyler, GLI’s president and CEO, said in an emailed statement.