All 40 of the properties explored as possible locations for a new police impound lot or overflow lot have been eliminated from consideration because they either did not meet the city’s criteria or were unavailable for purchase, the Fischer administration told Metro Council members last Thursday.
Most council members have let the administration know that they do not want an impound lot in their district, with Council President David James, D-6, and Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, D-3, telling the administration Thursday that they would fight any proposed lot west of Ninth Street, stating that the West End is too often where “undesirable” industries are located.
Metro Government began looking for a new location in January due to space restraints and environmental concerns at the current LMPD impound lot in Butchertown, which houses vehicles towed throughout the city on a temporary basis and vehicles held as criminal evidence on a long-term basis.
The 50-year-old lot was designed to hold 1,800 vehicles at a time but now holds over 2,300 on a typical day. That has led to a backlog of cars reported as abandoned remaining on the city’s streets.
The city previously appeared close to approving a temporary overflow lot for police evidence vehicles in a warehouse just west of Ninth Street in the California neighborhood, but a public meeting to discuss that site was abruptly canceled in August.
In the Democratic Caucus meeting on Thursday, Facilities Management and Fleet Operations Director Cathy Duncan presented the council members with a list of all 40 properties they have inquired about for either the replacement impound lot or temporary overflow lot, including a wide range of reasons for why each would not work for the city.
Duncan also told council Democrats that the city has begun picking up abandoned vehicles again and putting them in the already overcrowded impound lot. Only seven owners have picked up their vehicles, out of the 153 towed, she said.
The city is looking for a site with 17 contiguous acres on flat land that could be enclosed, in addition to being near an interstate or expressway and far from residential areas, she said, but this type of property has proved to be hard to find.
“There’s a lot of things we’d love to have that we could make work,” Duncan said. “We just have to find a lot that big that everybody can agree on.”
The list of properties presented to the council members included 19 for a replacement impound lot and 21 for a smaller overflow lot, including locations in 12 different council districts and three in Bullitt County to the south.
The reasons for properties being ruled out varied, including their proximity to residential neighborhoods, being located in a floodplain, having the wrong layout or being cost-prohibitive to fix, and being off the market and not for sale.
From Duncan’s interaction with council members on Thursday, it became apparent that the potential overflow warehouse in the California neighborhood — as well as several others in west Louisville — was nixed for being on the wrong side of Ninth Street.
Woolridge — whose district includes the west Louisville neighborhoods of Algonquin, California, Hallmark, Park DuValle, Parkland and Park Hill — spoke up to let Duncan know that “I won’t let you come here, and I’ll be leading the pack if you all try to do it.”
“We just don’t want it in west Louisville,” Woolridge added. “Bring us some retail down there, don’t bring me impound lots.”
Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith, D-4, expressed her disappointment that the California warehouse location was nixed and that none of the properties investigated were in her downtown district, as she was the lone council member who publicly welcomed at least an overflow lot in her district.
“I’ve made it very clear on a number of occasions that I will work with you in any way and do whatever it would take to figure out how to make it work,” Sexton Smith said. “Because this is a countywide, very serious issue, and we have to figure it out.”
When Sexton Smith asked why the warehouse site, just across Ninth Street from her district, was ruled out as an option, noting that it would house 350 long-term evidence vehicles and not be an eyesore from the outside, President James offered a terse reply: “Because it’s not an option. We’re not doing it west of Ninth Street.”
One site ruled out as a potential overflow lot was the fairgrounds, which has enough space for 600 vehicles. However, the city was informed that they would have to remove all vehicles at least six times a year with only 24-hours notice due to large events being held there, which made the site impractical.
Duncan said that only the property owners of six of the sites considered had responded to the city’s request for information in February, with most of the 40 considered either coming from suggestions submitted by the public or staff who spotted sites with potential.
Three locations in Bullitt County were ruled out due to their distance and the fact that LMPD’s powers were limited outside of Jefferson County. Councilman Brandon Coan, D-8, asked why property in southern Indiana was not considered and was told by Duncan that it raised the same jurisdiction concerns, in addition to having to contend with rush hour traffic on the bridges.
The city also considered the property near the intersection of Brownsboro Road and the Watterson Expressway where the proposed replacement VA Medical Center is supposed to be located but ruled it out because the VA “is moving forward with construction,” and it is in a residential area. Shippingport Island — located between Portland and Indiana — was also considered but ruled out due to being in a floodplain.
Six potential sites were ruled out in the James’ district, which includes Old Louisville and parts west of Ninth Street, and the district of Councilman Vitalis Lanshima, D-21, who represents the area around Beechmont and Iroquois Park south of the Watterson Expressway.
Duncan stated that while her team had ruled out a property on Tile Factory Lane in Lanshima’s district because it was under contract with another buyer, they just learned that it may be back on the market and would soon make new inquiries about its viability. The 5.17-acre location is just south of the Watterson across from Camp Taylor and is estimated to cost $650,000.
When several sites in District 21 were being considered by the city in June, Lanshima warned that he did not want the new replacement impound lot in his district. He was not present at the meeting on Thursday and did not respond to an email from Insider asking if he would be opposed to an overflow lot on Tile Factory Lane.
Councilman Bill Hollander, D-9, whose district currently contains the overcrowded impound lot, said the council would soon have to come to a decision on what to do, reminding them that keeping the lot in its current location would require expensive updates to limit the significant amount of pollution it creates for Beargrass Creek.
“I wouldn’t be in favor of spending a lot of money on that and then right after that move,” he added.