Residents of Prospect have raised concerns about how a four-story affordable senior apartment project will impact the city — even at one point trying to raise $390,000 to help another developer secure the site of the proposed development.
However, a representative with the Louisville-based affordable housing developer LDG Development has said the outcry against the 198-unit project stems from “a lot of misinformation” from Prospect Mayor John Evans.
“Based on the nature of what we do, we see people kind of not understanding the program and thinking the worst and their instinct is to push back from the development,” said Michael Gross, LDG Development’s development manager. “Our senior communities end up being wonderful neighbors and wonderful assets to the community.”
LDG Development has proposed building the $30 million senior apartment complex on 9.6 acres at 6500 Forest Cove Lane, near the intersection of River Road and Timber Ridge Drive and across from a shopping center. The development is located in the city of Prospect but also is part of the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro, and the city of Louisville planning officials have jurisdiction over whether or not the Prospect Cove development moves forward.
Residents have told metro officials that they are concerned about increased traffic, the height and density of the complex, the fact that many of the apartment residents won’t work, the exterior design of the building, parking and people “hanging out” at the shopping center.
“It is not a design that is suitable for Prospect,” Prospect city attorney Grover Potts Jr. said at a public hearing about the project in January. “Every time I look at it, I think of something else I don’t like about it.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Evans has said he is prepared to exhaust all of his options to fight the development. The city has already dedicated $100,000 for legal help to fight Prospect Cove, and Evans has used the last four city newsletters, spanning October 2016 to April 2017, to update residents on the project and encouraging them to speak out.
“This is not about affordable housing. It is about the sheer massive size,” Evans told Insider, stating that the development would house as many as 752 people, only about one-fourth of whom would need to be age 55 or older.
Legally, two-bedroom apartments can house up to four people, and two people in a one bedroom. Prospect Cove will have 178 two-bedroom units and 20 one-bedroom apartments, which is how Evans said he arrived at the 752 number.
The mayor’s total occupancy number is “completely unrealistic,” Gross told Insider.
LDG Development surveyed its other affordable senior apartments across the United States and found that in most cases, the units housed one person, even if the unit had two bedrooms.
He added that at least one person 55 or older must live in each unit. Someone under the age of 55 living at Prospect Cove would need to either be a spouse or caretaker, and those individuals must be at least 18.
While senior residents go through an in-depth application process to verify their age and income, LDG Development representatives did note that it could be difficult to check on a caretakers because it could be seen as them restricting access to caretakers, which may violate rules related to receiving federal affordable housing tax credits. The tax credits will help pay for construction of Prospect Cove.
Fears about occupancy rates
In a phone interview with Insider, Evans said that Prospect already had “a great deal” of housing that was “significantly more affordable” than the proposed Prospect Cove. He stated that LDG Development would charge $900 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.
LDG Development told Insider that it planned to charge $675 to $1,000 a month for an apartment. Rates are typically based income and the size of the apartment.
Evans also took issue with the size of the parking lot and stated that LDG Development was lying about how many people would live at Prospect Cove.
“To have 209 parking spaces is absurd,” he said, reiterating his occupancy estimate of 752.
Evans also accused LDG Development of using the 55 and older resident age requirement as “a fig leaf” to cover up the fact that many people under the age of 55 would live there. As further evidence, he noted that the company’s attorney, Clifford Ashburner, would not agree to cap occupancy at 230 people.
“We don’t anticipate getting to that number, but restricting that occupancy could restrict residents access to caregivers, which might get us in trouble” with the tax credit regulations, Ashburner said at a Jan. 31 public hearing in front of the Planning Commission.
He added that it would be difficult for the city to enforce an occupancy cap.
Ashburner estimated that Prospect Cove would have 215 residents if it followed the same trend as LDG Development’s affordable senior apartments in Jeffersontown called Brookstone. Not all of those residents will have personal vehicles, so the 209-space parking lot is enough to accommodate them, LDG Development has stated.
One Brookstone resident, Irv Martin, spoke in favor of the development at the January hearing and noted that there’s never been a parking problem at the 60-unit Brookstone in his years there.
“Living there is a pleasure. It has everything I can think up,” Martin said, noting that Brookstone has a party room, library, exercise facility and computer room.
About six people spoke in favor of Prospect Cove at the meeting, and 36 people signed up to speak in opposition.
One resident, Mike Thomas, said the design looked like a place you sent senior citizens if you didn’t plan to visit them.
“It doesn’t look anything like a senior living home,” he said.
Raising money to fight the development
The city of Prospect and its elected officials are so adamantly opposed to Prospect Cove that the city and some residents set out earlier this year to financially support another developer who was interested in the property that LDG Development plans to build the apartments on.
Back in February, LDG Development’s option to buy the property was expiring, and the company was looking to renew it for another year. At the same time, some in Prospect, including the mayor, were rallying behind an unnamed developer who wanted to build two restaurants, retail shops and two-story offices on the lot.
“I was very, very supportive of that alternative development,” Evans said. “The city got behind another developer to subsidize the developer and enable them to compete at the level of $2.8 million.”
The $2.8 million is how much Evans said LDG Development agreed to pay for the land.
The city promised the commercial developer that it’d buy two sections of the property for $810,000, which Evans said is the appraised value according to an appraiser hired by the city. The land would be used for a park and would house a city maintenance building.
Because the use of city funding is restricted, Evans said, “I went to the residents of this area and asked them to contribute.”
He was aiming to raise $390,000 from residents to provide a $1.5 million subsidy to the commercial developer.
At the time, LDG Development reupped its option on the property, Evans said, he had raised $230,000 from 290 households. “We were going to get there,” he said.
Evans asserts that LDG Development increased its agreed purchase price to $3 million from $2.8 million.
LDG Development declined to say how much it has contracted to pay for the land but said the money from the land acquisition would come from private investment. The company will then apply for federal tax credits, which it can then give to financial institutions such as banks in exchange for money to invest in the construction of the apartment development.
The complex funding structure helps affordable housing developers across the United States to rent units below market rate without incurring financial losses, and it fulfills a federal requirement that banks invest in the communities in which they do business.
A battle still to come
Following the well-attended Planning Commission hearing in January, forward progress has slowed down, with LDG Development being told to make changes to the project’s facade. However, concerns over the project have seemingly never wavered to the point that Louisville Metro Councilman Scott Reed, R-16, emailed his constituents, which include Prospect residents, last week.
“In my short time on the Metro Council, I have received many requests for comments and meetings for a proposed zoning matter, specifically the Prospect Cove development,” Reed wrote. “As stated above, I am cautioned against taking a position on the matter as the record for the case and a decision by the Planning Commission have yet to be resolved. While it might seem easy to suggest I simply go ahead and take a position, I would remind those people that doing so could result in me being disqualified from a vote on the matter should it come to the Metro Council and it could also eliminate my ability to comment on it to my colleagues.”
LDG Development hasn’t submitted its new exterior design to the Louisville Metro yet but expects to do so in the near future.
“We are just about ready to revisit the plans with the city,” Gross said.
He indicated that LDG Development was prepared to continue its battle with the city of Prospect.
“I think that the city of Prospect has made it quite clear that they oppose our affordable housing, regardless of the fact that we are talking about seniors. We regret that that is the position they have taken. We feel there is a huge need for housing especially in that district,” Gross said. “It is important that seniors don’t have to relocate in order to find affordable, high-quality decent housing. It’s not right.”
Ashburner stated in his testimony at the hearing that the median age in Prospect is 51.
“There is tremendous demand …for housing of this kind,” he said.