New Development Could Take a Lot – Literally
Ask anyone what makes the Highlands special, and nine times out of ten, their answer will involve history. With its stunning architectural presence, mature trees and green spaces, it isn’t new development that makes the Highlands so special – it’s the history.
Having lived in the Highlands-Douglass neighborhood for over 17 years, I have watched new development change the look and feel of the area. While some developments are successful, too many are disjointed and unnecessary. All too often, homes are stripped of their historic significance and green spaces are divided and built upon to capacity.
Unfortunately, when it comes to new development, most residents are at a disadvantage, unaware of their rights and often confused and dissatisfied by the process. As a result, proposals pass that can change the integrity of an area, leaving many residents feeling defeated and uncertain about the value of their properties and the future of their neighborhood.
In July 2009, co-developer William Van Cleave presented a development proposal to the community regarding his family’s historic property located at 2114 and 2116 Edgehill Road in the Highlands-Douglass neighborhood. The proposal seeks to divide the 1.05-acre property into three lots with a mixed use of single and multifamily residences.
The proposed structures to be built on Lot 1, now an overgrown garden on the north side of the property, include a new single-family dwelling and a three-car, carriage-house type garage, both to be built at a later date. These structures would be occupied by co-developers Lenora Paradis and Jordan Michelson.
The Italianate manor house, located on Lot 2, was built circa 1860 and is the largest structure on the property. It would be altered from a three-unit apartment house to a six-unit multifamily condominium complex, with the north side of the house extended to accommodate four of the six units. William Van Cleave would occupy a condominium located there. A seventh condominium would be added on top of an existing six-bay garage, thought to have been the original livery stable, also located on the north side of the property. To support this new structure, the garage would be partially torn down and reconstructed to accommodate eight bays.
The cottage, located on Lot 3, faces Edgehill Road and is west of the manor house. Once the original slave/servant quarters, it is the oldest structure on the property, built circa 1795. It would remain a single-family dwelling and be occupied by Martha Ruth Van Cleave, William Van Cleave’s mother. Minimal changes would be made to the structure. Parking for this property would be located within the eight-bay garage.
The current driveway, located on the north side of the property, would be shared between all three lots and provide the only access to the new housing on Lot 1. In addition, approximately nine parking spaces would be added on the north and south sides of the manor house to provide additional parking for residents and guests.
The proposal requires an approval of rezoning on Lot 2, from R-5 single-family to R-5A multifamily. This change would allow up to eight condominiums on the property, though only seven are proposed. In addition, the division of the property into three individual lots would require variances and waivers for setbacks, building limit lines and buffer encroachments.
Like so many of my neighbors, I am overwhelmed by this proposal. While we understand that development is crucial, we want to see improvements made to preserve and protect the history of the property as well as the area. Because it is considered the historic centerpiece of the Lauderdale Subdivision, to divide and develop the property in this manner not only disregards the original vision for the area, but contradicts the downzoning measures recently approved for the Highlands-Douglass neighborhood in accordance with the 2020 Cornerstone Plan.
The reuse of the existing structures is a positive element of the proposal and certainly gives merit to the overall intention of the project. However, of the three original structures, only one – the cottage – will remain unchanged. While the Van Cleave family has made a conscious effort to ensure that development is approached in a respectful manner by filing for an Individual Landmarks Designation, the overall proposal places minimal consideration on preservation and fails to honor history.
In my opinion, this development proposal is impractical and highly disorganized. While I support the reuse of the manor house for the six condominiums, I feel the seventh condominium, along with the new housing and dividing the property into three lots, goes way beyond reason. And, while parking seems to be provided, the additional traffic flow will greatly impact what is already a congested area, discouraging foot traffic and social contact among residents. Furthermore, the loss of open space may have repercussions for the physical environment, affecting the amenities of the area as well as the health and well-being of the residents.
Clearly, the characteristics of this proposal completely alter the look and feel of the property and distort the history of the Highlands-Douglass neighborhood, setting yet another precedent for overdevelopment in the Highlands.
To participate in the effort to minimize this development proposal, e-mail
– Shellie Nitsche, 40205
A Peacock, Late Night Hoodlums ... Or Was It Something Else?
My fiancee and I couldn’t have been the only two people in Germantown to hear the mysterious, non-verbal whooping that lasted a few minutes in the damp early morning of August 5 – the morning after unprecedented flash floods in Louisville and Kentuckiana. Around 2:44 a.m., we both awoke to hear high-pitched call-and-answer like reports, distinctly different “voices” some distance apart. From our open window on Charles Street, my estimation is that these calls were no more than 200 yards northeast, maybe somewhere around Ellison Avenue.
“You heard that, right?” I asked Liz.
“Uh-huh,” she whispered. “You think it was a peacock?”
I did not. I grew up in a place surrounded by wild peacocks, and this lacked their shrill rising pitch. We whispered and held our breaths, but suddenly all sounds ceased. No more calls for minutes, while I stared out the window and Liz rolled over back to sleep.
Okay, back to sleep, I thought. It was drunkards hunching home from Nach Bar on a Tuesday night ... or teens reveling in their final days of summer break, being pranksters ... Go to sleep.
But I lay there on my back for less than three minutes when my ceiling and far wall illumed, like a high-intensity discharge spotlight was being aimed into the bedroom. I could see it behind my closed eyelids. A car, no doubt, turning around on the narrow street. But there was no noise, and the light wasn’t swinging side to side – as a pair of headlights would – nor moving at all. I spun over and glared while all that light instantly sucked back into a focused node somewhere nestled in the trees across the road, then coagulated into a white-gold teardrop so intensely bright that I could see it through the heavy wet leaves. It bolted straight up with soundless precision into nothingness once more, leaving only the murmur of crickets whirring and dripping gutters ... not even a dog barking.
I checked Liz: asleep. Was I dreaming? No. When’s the last time I took psychedelics? ... No, I saw this, and I can’t be the only one ... and I won’t posit any way to explain it.
If anyone has information on what might have happened to create this weird, possibly unconnected series of auditory and visual occurrences in the pre-dawn morning of August 5 in Germantown, contact the writer at (502) 727-5222.
– Chris James Bayer, 40204
The Scoop on Poop Bags
I enjoyed the reprint of the poop-scooping article. While shopping for dog food at our local Feeders Supply, I noticed a box of biodegradable bags made for picking up after pets. The blue plastic-type bags come in rolls that fit into a small dispenser designed to clip onto the handle of a leash – very convenient.
I have both a 65-pound and an 8-pound dog, and the bags work well for the output of either.
As more of the population opt to carry reusable grocery totes as an alternative to “paper or plastic,” it may prove useful to know there is a “greener” option available for scooping.
See you in the park ...
– Dorothy T.