A preservationist group is requesting Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer veto a controversial ordinance that allows the Metro Council to overturn a decision made by the Landmarks Commission.
After months of debate, the council passed the bill by a 16-7 vote last Thursday that changes the city’s longstanding process to declare historic sites. Introduced by Councilman David Yates, D-25, who said the commission lacked oversight, lawmakers made a number of changes including a provision that allows a majority of council members to challenge a Landmarks Commission decision and begin a review process.
Attorney Steve Porter is representing the preservationist group OPEN Louisville, which drafted a letter to Fischer asking him to reject the ordinance.
He says the council is violating the state constitution and encroaching upon the mayor’s authority.
“If this passes and goes into affect without a veto, landmarks is the only local agency that can be overruled by the Metro Council. And I think this is in violation of the Kentucky revised statuette, which set up a separation executive and legislative power,” he says.
The letter outlines several reasons to reject the law, citing that the new process would allow “backroom politics and agreements” to overrule the landmarks panel's expertise. For months, preservationists lobbied against Yates' proposal, arguing that the process has worked for four decades.
Council members have clashed over the bill and at public forums set up to debate the law, residents in opposition to the changes outnumbered supporters by a 6-to-1 margin.
A Fischer spokesman says the mayor is taking the ordinance under advisement and has 10 days to make a decision.
“For Mayor Fischer's own executive powers this goes beyond just the landmarks commission,” says Porter. “This sets a very bad precedent. The board of health could make a regulation and the council decides to overrule that or Metro Parks wanted to do something and the council decided to overrule it. They could pass an ordinance saying that they could overrule every department, board and commission in Louisville Metro if this is allowed to stand.”
The council can overturn a mayoral veto with a super majority vote of 18 council members.
Councilman Yates could not be reached for comment.