Clifton Community Council

Development and the Clifton Neighborhood.

Clifton Community Council responds to the Courier-Journal.

The Clifton Community Council welcomes the opportunity to respond to the C-J news article of 11/21/02 and editorial “Urban Action”, of 11/23/02 concerning a zoning change for the “Clifton Lofts” project. Since our position has not been reported accurately, we wish to set the record straight.

We support appropriate infill development as a solution to urban sprawl, but we are opposed to overbuilding this site at the edge of our Traditional Neighborhood. We are concerned that the density and size of this particular project will be disruptive, making this area of our neighborhood unpleasant for current residents and businesses, and unsafe for pedestrians.

The zoning change approved by the Planning Commission on 11/21/02 was an example of a failure to recognize the important issues facing urban neighborhoods. While encouraging infill development on the one hand, Cornerstone 2020 places limits on the infill development to insure compatibility with the neighborhood. The years spent in developing Cornerstone 2020 to guide long-range planning in Louisville and Jefferson County will have been wasted if this fundamental principle of compatibility is ignored. Maximum profits for the developer may not mean maximum benefits to our city.

The basic issue here is how much development is too much on this particular site. The article stated that Clark Development had worked with the Council to reduce the original plan from 63 luxury condos and 10,000 square feet of commercial space to 42 luxury condos and 7000 square feet commercial. To us, this “compromise” is best understood as skillful public manipulation based on an inflated starting position. Each proposal must be judged on its merits for compatibility and compliance with other Cornerstone 2020 Guidelines, not by how much it has been reduced from previous proposals.

Over 900 people petitioned against rezoning for this project, more than the “some” mentioned in C-J coverage. The high density and large size of the development are incompatible with the pattern of development of Frankfort Avenue, and specifically with surrounding residences and businesses, leading to a number of other problems, including:
1) Because surrounding property is privately owned, there is no access to the development except through a 22-foot wide, 200-foot long driveway underpass through the front of the proposed building from Frankfort Avenue to parking in the rear, in effect creating a new intersection in the middle of the block, through which all deliveries, customers, residents and visitors must pass. This creates hazards for our blind residents and raises questions about emergency vehicle access;
2) The 52 foot structure on a 25 foot hill will loom more than 75 feet above the houses at the bottom of the hill behind it;
3) Covering the hillside with an impervious parking lot will overtax the off-site antiquated private sewer, the only drainage outlet at the bottom of the hill, exacerbating current flooding problems;
4) A five foot landscape strip and 6 foot fence are inadequate to buffer residences from the adverse effects of the parking lot on the hillside and the large structure on top;
5) Our National Register historic district will lose 2 houses built in the early 1880s;
6) The visually appealing renderings and site plan do not comply with building code requirements, such as severe limits on window size when walls are built to 5 feet of property lines; this proposal builds to 5 feet from both the east and west lines.
7) Competition for parking and added traffic congestion so close to the railroad crossing will be a problem for the 21 businesses in the block, and residents on nearby streets.

Contrary to the assertion in the editorial, we do not prefer surface parking. Concerns about underground parking were in the context of a much larger complex requiring C-2 encroachment into the residential zone. We were told that developers eliminated underground parking because of the expense their inability to obtain the access to private property necessary to build an alley or alleys they considered necessary.

Pursuant to our Neighborhood Plan, most commercial and residential properties, took a downzone in 1990 to reflect actual usage. Upzoning only one of those properties to increase density beyond what exists in a several blocks radius is inappropriate. The C-J characterization of “recycling” land distorts the issue of infill development in Clifton. The Council supports mixed-use infill development, when its density, mass and scale are compatible with the surrounding area, it reuses the historic structures and respects the topographic limitations of the site. High-density development is appropriate where there are a variety of safe accesses for pedestrians, cyclists, and auto users and sufficient buffering of low-density residential uses. Typically, this means location at intersections with ample street and alley accessibility.

We applaud investments in our neighborhood, both commercial and residential. However, we are concerned about both small business owners and residents who have made significant investments in their property and will now find themselves in the shadow of a grossly out-of-proportion development. To keep our neighborhood stable and viable, we must have appropriate transitions between low-density and high-density development. A number of locations in Clifton meet these criteria. The Council invites any developer who is motivated to enhance the character of the neighborhood while respecting the rights of impacted property owners to work with us on any of these properties.

Clifton Community Council
Pam Vetter, President
Rachel Grimes, Chair, Zoning Committee
Cassandra Culin, Chair, Technical Review Team

Posted by mjol on 01/05/2003
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Louisville, Kentucky 40206