Waterfront Park is a 85-acre park in downtown Louisville. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Jefferson County Attorney Michael O’Connell sent a letter to a member of the Waterfront Development Corp. Board of Directors requesting that the board hold off on plans to charge for parking at Waterfront Park lots.

“We would strongly advise against purchasing new meters or parking implements to invest in any program until we have had a meaningful opportunity to review and discuss both amongst ourselves, and with you,” states the letter, which is addressed to Oliver Barber, an attorney and member of the WDC board.

It also references an Aug. 29 letter sent from Barber but does not indicate what the letter said. Connell has requested two weeks to review the letter and respond “based upon the matters contained therein.”

Insider Louisville reached out to the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office but did not immediately hear back.

“How did I get to be the big hog at this trough,” Barber told Insider in a phone interview Friday afternoon.

While he is a member of the board, he added, he cannot unilaterally cease any operations related to the implementation of the parking fee. However, Barber said: “Nothing is going to happen in the next two weeks that is incontrovertible.”

He declined to forward the letter referenced in the O’Connell’s communication. The letter, Barber said, was sent to Councilman Bill Hollander, D-9, and included a funding proposal.

Hollander told Insider that he needed to check with the county attorney’s office before releasing the Aug. 29 letter. He did note, however, that the letter suggested that money be transferred from the capital fund for Phase IV of Waterfront Park to WDC’s operating budget and included revenue guarantees to prevent the organization from having to charge for parking.

Phase IV of Waterfront Park is a 22-acre expansion project that would stretch from along the riverfront from 10th Street to 15th Street in West Louisville.

 

WDC president David Karem was out of the office for the day.

The letter sent from the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office to Oliver Barber | Courtesy of the Louisville Mayor’s Office

Last week, the WDC board approved a measure to institute paid parking at all Waterfront Park lots. The board agreed to charge a $3 fee for three hours of parking.

“It’s the least amount of pain we can cause at this point,” Barber said last week, responding to criticism that the parking fee would hurt the city’s poorest citizens.

Multiple WDC board members have stated that the parking fee is necessary to cover what is expected to be an ongoing budget shortfall caused by a loss of state funding. The fee is estimated to bring in roughly $294,000 in revenue for WDC. About $215,000 of that would pay for the management and maintenance of the park, and the remainder would cover the cost of having an outside company to manage the paid parking system.

City government leaders, including Mayor Greg Fischer, have spoken out against the parking fee, before and after it was approved. WDC also received hundreds of emails and calls from Louisville residents opposing the fee.

Following the vote, Louisville Metro Councilman Bill Hollander, D-9, tweeted: “No public hearing, no review of public comments sent to @wfpark but an unelected board charges for parking. It’s wrong & should be reversed.”

In the last few hours, he has retweeted two commentaries that were against the parking fee.

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]