Cooper's HawkWe Stand (Perched) Corrected!

In our October issue, we featured a photo of what was believed to be (at the time of publication) a peregrine falcon. The bird was spotted and photographed in the Highlands-Douglass neighborhood by Angela Powell. Her husband, Dave, who submitted the photo, discovered the true identity of the bird (it’s actually a cooper’s hawk) too late for us to make the correction.

We also heard from other readers who identified the bird as a cooper’s hawk.

Perri Eason, a local ornithologist who teaches at U of L, wrote: “Cooper’s Hawks are accipiters, not falcons.  In flight, their wings are much more rounded than a falcon’s. Perched, they have visibly longer legs and are missing the ‘helmet’ of dark feathers characteristic of the peregrine. Cooper’s hawks have become much more common in suburban areas in recent years, and appear to be breeding successfully in the Highlands. Peregrines do not.”

An unidentified Beckham Bird Club member wrote: “We do have peregrine falcons in Louisville, mostly downtown around the bridges, and at the Falls of the Ohio. Cooper’s hawks, like the one pictured, are fairly common in our neighborhood, but they do terrorize backyard birds.”

Another unidentified bird lover wrote: “As soon as I saw the picture ... I knew who was posing.  I’ve seen him many times in the past.  I live on Speed Avenue,  a few doors from Hampden Court.  The first I met the Captain was when I came home from work one evening. Getting out of my car, I saw something fall from the sky.  So I looked at what fell.  It was a little bone with some feathers attached.  I looked up, and perched on the edge of my carport above was a small hawk feasting on what was once a smaller bird. He defiantly took another bite and looked at me as if to say ‘What???’

“Another time, he was right in the middle of the intersection of Grasmere and Hampden, in the street, dining on what appeared to have been a small squirrel.  He had one leg hiked up resting on his prey, looking like the Captain Morgan ads on TV.  He peered at me.  I drove around.  He kept eating.

“One day, a few months later, I was pulling out of the alley onto Hampden Court and there he was again, a few feet away in the driveway next to the alley. He had his leg hiked up on another victim with the same majesty as before.  This is another reason I love the Highlands.”
- The Editor

For the Record

Like developer William Van Cleave, my husband and I have a strong admiration for the property on Edgehill Road and Walnut Place in the Highland-Douglass neighborhood. Although we have never lived there, we have lived next door for over 20 years. The entire east side of the property, including the manor house, livery stable/garage and a portion of the north side garden serve as a visual backdrop to our property. Mature trees, flowering bushes, open spaces, wildlife and historic architecture are what we see out of 14 of our 24 windows. With every season there is something different to admire and ours is the only single family residence in the area with this vantage point. We consider it to be a vital asset to our own property and, though it is in dire need of restoration and repair, we hate to see so much of it change so drastically.

The Van Cleaves have been our neighbors for years, both next door and down the street, where Martha Ruth Van Cleave resides. Although we had not met him, we were thrilled when we found out that Martha Ruth’s son, William Van Cleave, had an interest in acquiring and developing the property. It was exciting to think that what we had admired for years would become even more significant once restored and preserved, and the fact that it would remain in their family made it all the more special.

As time has gone on, however, various elements of the proposal have caused our enthusiasm to wane. What we thought would be a terrific renovation project has turned into what looks to become another typical Highlands development – divide, cram in a structure, lose the green space and keep a bit of history. While we appreciate William Van Cleave’s position and understand that the last thing he needs is a group questioning his proposal, I would like to respond to a few comments made in his editorial in the October issue of The Highlander.

The Lauderdale Subdivision II, where the Edgehill Road property is located, was designed and plotted out in 1921 by William F. Randolph. Consisting of 128 lots, the original plat map clearly reflects the developer’s desire to divide the area around the Edgehill Road property and to showcase the historic grounds as the center of the subdivision. Similar design models are reflected routinely within the Highlands-Douglass area. The properties that make up the Lauderdale Subdivision II were originally plotted and divided once, not multiple times as suggested in Van Cleave’s editorial. The Edgehill Road property has never been divided. That is to say that, for 88 years, this property has remained the same, undivided and original. It is a defining characteristic of the neighborhood and an important element that has remained constant over time.

In addition, according to the Highlands-Douglass Neighborhood plan, there were “growing concerns among residents that encroachment and/or expansion of higher intensity land use ... may begin to threaten the character and integrity of the neighborhood.” As a result, a proposal to down-zone properties from R-5 to R-4 was recommended and adopted by Metro Government only a few months ago. The rationale: to limit subdivision and development, minimize density, protect residential character and green spaces, and bring zoning codes into compliance. Clearly, not a neighborhood “celebrated for its density,” as professed in the editorial.

Though we support the conversion of the manor house into six condominiums and the retention of the cottage as a single family residence, we oppose adding the seventh condominium, new housing and dividing the property into three lots. While I am prepared to lay out reasoning behind our opposition, much of the information is best suited for upcoming public hearings.

The bottom line, for me and “preserve.conserve.protect.,” is that our local government has put policies and laws into place to “produce a plan for a more livable, attractive, mobile, efficient and environmentally sensitive community” ( We feel several elements of the Van Cleave proposal disregard that vision.

Furthermore, it is not, nor has it been, my or any “preserve.conserve.protect.” representative’s intention to persuade anyone to oppose the development proposal. If you support our opposition, great. If not, we respect your position. It’s as simple as that.

To belittle the efforts to protect a part of the neighborhood that so many deem valuable and irreplaceable is ugly and sophomoric. We all have the same 24 hours in the day and what we are trying to accomplish is respected and considered necessary by many.

I refuse to watch my neighborhood continue to lose the historic qualities that make it special, and for anyone to criticize that ... well, they just don‘t get it. Likewise, this is not an attack on the Van Cleave family or anyone else who is involved with the project. To make it personal is just something I am not interested in doing.

This is a process. We are following the rules of the process and I, for one, feel privileged to have an opportunity to do so. Win or lose, I will know that I did what I could to make a difference in my community, and for that I am proud.

– Shellie Nitsche, 40205

Wonderful Improvement to the Neighborhood

I just read the interesting exchange in the October Highlander between William Van Cleave, who wants to develop his property at 2116 Edgehill Road, and Shellie Nitsche, a neighbor who is determined to prevent Mr. Van Cleave from doing so. As a disinterested party who knows neither Mr. Van Cleave nor Ms. Nitsche, I feel free to offer my unbiased opinion.

Mr. Van Cleave’s argument as laid out in his letter appears to me to be cogent, reasonable and persuasive. He appears to have been very diligent in addressing all of the necessary concerns of a well planned development. I had never been to the intersection of Edgehill and Walnut, so I drove over there this morning to see for myself. In my opinion, the plan as described certainly “respects the basic design elements that have shaped the neighborhood over the decades.” I think it would be a wonderful improvement to the neighborhood. And then there is the overriding issue of personal property rights, which is at the heart of liberty in America. This property belongs to Mr. Van Cleave, not Ms. Nitsche.

With regard to Ms. Nitsche’s letter, let me first say that her petition drive is meaningless. Having lived in the Highlands for many years, I have seen how easy it is to get concerned people in this neighborhood to sign a petition (and aren’t all the people in the Highlands-Douglass neighborhood concerned?), no matter what the petition is for, especially when only one side of an issue is presented – and it is presented with warnings of dire consequences, such as “a change in the neighborhood” or to “protect the integrity of the property and limit development.” I actually think it may be in the DNA of Highlands-Douglass residents, or maybe the city should check the drinking water. (Maybe we should get a petition going to check out the Highlands-Douglass water. I bet I could get 200 signatures by sundown.)

Cutting through the ersatz emotion of Ms. Nitsche’s letter, her entire argument appears to be the classic “not in my backyard.” There was no substance to her argument. There is really no point-by-point to refute. Instead, Ms. Nitsche falls back on an ad hominem attack on Mr. Van Cleave, the classic tactic when you have no argument. Cicero said it a long time ago, “When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.” There is absolutely nothing to cause me to believe that Mr. Van Cleave is not capable of managing this development. In fact, he does not appear to me to be a “novice,” but instead, appears to be an exceptionally competent man. And just what does it mean that Mr. Van Cleave “appears to be a quick study”?  How snobbish and condescending. And offensive.

Ms. Nitsche asks that opinions on this matter be directed to Mike Wilcher at Louisville Metro Planning and Design (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), and by copy of this letter that is exactly what I am doing. Not only is this neighborhood not over-developed, there appears to have been virtually no development in the last half century.  I urge Mr. Wilcher to approve Mr. Van Cleave’s well thought out plan to develop his property.
– Ralph Koslik, 2229 Cherokee Parkway, 40204  (cc: Shellie Nitsche)

Tire Cap Banditos Play Pranks in Germantown
I’m usually not too mystified about the things I see on my street. Last evening at dusk, there was a skirmish six houses down with violent shouting and a drunken voice brandishing the word “shotgun” at two teenage boys. Their mother came running to their rescue, the cops showed up, and neighbors came out to get an eyeful. Then all was quiet. The other day, I found, among the usual litter and rubbish, a used Maxi-Pad in my yard. Why?

But on the morning of September 18, as I was coming out to go to work, I found my car sitting on two flat tires next to the curb. The driver-side tires were fine. I didn’t feel annoyance or anger – just perplexity.  Did I run over a swath of discarded roofing tacks when I parked? Did someone slash my tires intentionally?  Who did I piss off?

I sat on the sidewalk and stared at the rubber. Not a scratch. No marks of any kind. I felt the stem caps – both were loose. So, someone sat here in the middle of the night, pushing in the pins of my stems until all the air drained out of both tires? I hoped the kids who did it were as dedicated to their homework.

No matter. I rode my bike to work. But if my fiancée had come out to find two flat tires on her car, windows would have rattled from Kentucky Street to Ellison Avenue from the pitch of her wrath. She works in Lyndon and has a job that requires her to meet with people at appointed hours. She would not be riding her bike to work.

When I returned from the office that evening, I used my portable pump/battery jumper to start the reinflation process – a loud business – and from the doorway of the house in front of which I’d parked, a voice asked, “They deflate your tires, too?”

“Appears so,” I said.

The man’s name was Ray and he explained that his brother, who lived there, had his truck hit by the deflators three times in the past four months. He also explained that there’s a tire stem tool that anyone can use to quickly twist out the pin, leaving it intact but loose, whence the air rushes out of the tire in seconds.

Ray then came out of the house with a piece of equipment – a pump that could inflate a tire from zero to 30 PSI in seconds. It put my struggling, rinky-dink pump to shame.

In minutes, his brother, Doug, came out and graciously fixed my tire stems – with the same kind of tool that was used to untwist them – and filled up my tires in no time. He was a good neighbor, like most people in Germantown, and said he had heard from the people at Hauck’s store, on the corner of Goss and Hoertz, that three or four cars had been vandalized in this same fashion on Samuel Street, one block northeast.

“So we’ve got an epidemic on our hands,” I said.

I now knew it was nothing personal, and reasoned that my car and Doug’s truck were targeted because they were parked in darker areas of the street, at the midpoint between street lights.

I also felt I should raise a flag in the neighborhood monthly: Keep your eyes peeled and your Maglites ready. Banditos are running rampant with a special tool that makes you late for work for no good reason.

– Chris Bayer, 40204