Growth and development in Louisville has been, and will be in the future, shaped by a number of factors critical to the aesthetics and fiscal sustainability of the City. Key among these factors are open space, the mix of commercial and residential land uses, building heights, historical preservation, and the preservation of small-town character.
In the 1970’s the City of Louisville adopted a Comprehensive Plan that included using open space to buffer it from other cities, to prevent overcrowding, and to provide recreational opportunities. Since that time the City has continued pursuing this policy resulting in our current open space holdings. The inevitability of this policy was the limiting of Louisville’s development. We have largely reached the limits of our residential development. We are now faced with the choice of rezoning commercially zoned land and growing vertically, aka densification, if we want to significantly grow our population.
Growing our population in this manner would create significant conflicts with many of our long-held community values. If you study our revenue streams, you will find that it is indisputable that residential development does not pay for itself. To offset this situation, we rely on our commercial property tax base and non-resident spending (it is estimated that up to ½ of our sales tax comes from non-resident spending) to pay our bills. Given this reality, it is critical that we become very cautious about rezoning commercially zoned land to residential. Mixed-use development is often seen as a panacea, however, the retail associated with this type of development does not attract any significant non-resident spending and in the developments in Louisville that have been approved with this zoning, very little or no commercial or retail has been built.
We also need to be cautious about using financial incentives to encourage the redevelopment of our historical downtown area. The historical character of our downtown area is a large contributor to its economic success.
Finally, I would like to talk about small town character. This term likely means different things to different people. However, I think we all know what it is when we either see it or feel it. On the other hand, there are somethings we do know about small town character. People are friendly, there is a feeling of community, trees are as tall as our buildings, our neighborhood streets are safe, we have a low crime rate, our town is walkable with our extensive trail system, we have great schools, and we are not crowded. You add to the list and I will work to keep our small town character.