The first of two codes and zoning enforcement sweeps of Louisville’s popular Bardstown Road commercial corridor is set to take place this week.
Proponents of the plan say it will help bring owners who fail to take care of their properties into compliance with city regulations. About a dozen enforcement officials will visit every property on Bardstown Road and Baxter Avenue in the Highlands to examine the exteriors for violations and encourage property owners to fix them.
Some will be cited and given a period to rectify issues before receiving fines.
Councilman Brandon Coan (D-8), who represents the district, said the sweep isn’t intended to punish property owners. He wants them to realize their health and safety violations and fix them.
“We’re really hopeful that we’ll be able to take care of any problem properties and incentivize some other people to make improvements to theirs,” he said.
There isn’t a single type of problem property, said Aaron Givhan, the president of the Highland Commerce Guild. He said vacant properties as well as those owned by non-local entities can rack up issues, ranging from gathering trash to overgrown grass.
“I wish I could say, ‘All vacant properties, if we just took care of that our problems are solved,'” Givhan said. “That’s not true.”
Givhan said he and others in the business community support the sweep because it will create a baseline assessment of issues on the popular stretch known for restaurants, retail and small businesses.
“This is a logical, methodical way of going at a baseline to where you can say, ‘All right, this person was made aware that there is an issue and then, has it been fixed? Yes or no?'” he said.
Recently, some including Coan, have said the area is in decline. Online records from the city show that code enforcement visits and violations are up for this area compared to the first 10 months of last year.
“The road has become more hostile to pedestrians and bicyclists, more littered. The historic fabric has been disturbed by strip malls and big boxes,” Coan wrote in a September newsletter.
Givhan said he has been around Bardstown Road for more than 30 years, often as a volunteer cleaning up the stretch. That kind of maintenance has been an issue stretching back to the 1970s, he said.
“This is the first time I can remember that they took the whole strip, and they’re going to find out, you know, visually find out where the trouble spots are,” he said.
The sweep will also help identify which properties are vacant, which are owner-occupied and which are owned or leased. And Givhan said that can give leaders a way to figure out which programs can help property owners address the issues. Other efforts, such as plans to improve traffic on the busy road, could also help.
Coan said he is working with Louisville Forward, the city’s economic development agency, to educate business and property owners about local loan programs that can help them pay for improvements.
Robert Kirchdorfer, the director of Metro Codes and Regulations, said in a statement that the department conducts these types of sweeps across the city in response to concerns raised by neighborhood residents, business owners and elected officials. He said those groups raised health and safety concerns, which inspectors will attempt to address through the sweep.
Inspectors are slated to complete another sweep in the same area next spring.