News Xtra: Game back on for Irish Hill development

Jul 22, 2008 at 9:14 pm

The developer Poe Cos. announced Monday that it has resumed plans for a $35 million mixed-use development in the Irish Hill neighborhood, citing newfound neighborhood and government support for the controversial project, which would include a grocery store, smaller shops and restaurants, and office space. 

Poe pulled plans for the development in May after Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Voor Montano ruled that the Metropolitan Sewer District hadn’t properly completed the review process for a permit it granted the developer. The ruling was in response to a suit filed by Tom Fitzgerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council, on behalf of the Irish Hill Neighborhood Association, whose board of directors has opposed Poe’s plan to straighten a portion of Beargrass Creek that runs through the property, removing some 400 feet. 

In a letter to neighbors, Steve Poe announced in May that his firm would instead build mini-warehouses on a portion of the site. Such a use would require less regulatory oversight. 

But after meeting recently with city officials and some neighbors — and launching a concerted public-relations effort intended to create the impression that all but a handful of Irish Hill residents favored the plan — Poe reversed course again. “We felt like it wasn’t the right thing to do for us to punish the entire neighborhood, and that’s the way the neighborhood looked at … putting mini-warehouses there,” he told LEO Weekly Monday. 

At issue is whether rerouting the creek would cause flooding in an area already prone to it. Jason Flickner, of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, said Monday that losing the meandering parts of the creek — which Poe has said would interfere with his plans — would cause the water to move too quickly, leading to degradation of the banks and perhaps leaving the surrounding area vulnerable to erosion. 

On Monday, Fitzgerald said he filed a request with the state Division of Water for an inspection of the property. A press release issued the same day by Poe Cos. referred to the creek as “contaminated,” which, if true, Fitzgerald said, he would push for the company to clean it up. He said he has seen studies that say there is no deep contamination in the creek. 

“My sense is that the PR firm obviously would not exaggerate the extent of the pollution on the property in order to justify moving the creek,” he said somewhat sarcastically.

As well, Fitzgerald said Poe’s mini-warehouse proposal showed that there is no so-called extreme hardship, which must be demonstrated to move any perennial stream in Kentucky. He called the proposal “fairly conclusive of the fact that there are other uses” that do not require rerouting the creek.