Louisville Metro Planning Commission approved the Unity Place affordable housing development. | WLKY

By Lauren Adams | WLKY

Louisville’s Planning Commission voted 5-2 Tuesday to approve a proposal that would bring a 260-unit apartment complex called Unity Place to the Okolona area after a public hearing in which more than a dozen neighbors said they opposed the development, citing safety and traffic concerns.

As Insider Louisville reported in 2016, the Barrister Commercial Group is leading the affordable housing development, working with Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

According to an Oct. 5 news release, “The two have teamed up to design a first of its kind affordable housing complex that can serve the unique needs of refugees settling in the Louisville Metro community as well as members of our community that qualify for affordable housing.”

If approved by Metro Council, the area in the 8000 block of Shepherdsville Road will be rezoned to build the apartments on about 17 acres.

Supporters of the project testified the refugee families would be closely vetted and the apartments would be home to only 40 to 50 families. Developers said studies showed there would be a minimum impact on traffic and that developing the area would help with the scarcity of affordable housing.

“We don’t want a refugee enclave. We want our clients to quickly integrate and become part of the fabric of our community and not remain insulated in immigrant communities,” Director of Kentucky Refugee Ministries John Koehlinger said. “It’s called ‘Unity Place’ for a reason.”

Many made it clear their opposition was not about the refugees who would call these apartments home. Neighbors noted the location and the lack of infrastructure in the area, including two-lane roads that are already busy as well as a lack of sidewalks.

“It’s a good thing what these people are doing for these refugees. It’s a blessing for those people. But this is not the place to do it,” one resident, Larry Braford, said.

Although the Planning Commission has approved the plan, Metro Council will have the final vote, which should happen in the coming weeks, officials said.

In the news release, Mike Brown, director of business development for Barrister Commercial Group, said: “Unity Place will incorporate numerous on-site support facilities that will help with counseling, training and community integration. It has been an extremely rewarding development to design and we look forward to bring the project to fruition in 2019.”