The Louisville Metro Planning Commission dealt a victory to Topgolf Thursday with a unanimous vote recommending that Metro Council approve the sporting entertainment facility’s plans at Oxmoor Center.
Commissioners agreed that representatives for Topgolf had presented credible evidence to justify special permits and rezoning, as well as to allay concerns about lighting, sound and traffic in the area.
The decision pushes what has been a contentious issue forward, but Topgolf is not clear to begin redeveloping the site of a closed Sears at the mall yet.
Dozens of supporters and opponents attended the regular planning commission meeting Thursday afternoon. After the commissioners explained their support of the proposal and voted, many who had hoped the Topgolf proposal would fail quickly filed out.
Steve Porter, a land use attorney representing residents against the plan, criticized the commission.
“This is probably the biggest mistake I’ve ever seen the Planning Commission make,” Porter said. “It’s up to the Metro Council now to correct that mistake.”
He said council members are more attuned to what neighborhood residents want, whereas the Planning Commission has an “innate bias” toward development.
If the Council approves Topgolf’s plans, Porter said he could appeal the decision in court on the grounds that the proposal violates Louisville’s land development code and the Cornerstone 2020 comprehensive plan.
Porter reiterated that his clients like the idea of Topgolf in Louisville, but not at the mall. He said he expects “public displays of opposition.”
Representatives for Topgolf and Oxmoor Center celebrated the decision and said they did not think the large, illuminated facility would hurt the neighborhood.
Tanner Micheli, director of real estate development for Topgolf, said he believed studies provided by the company showed the lights would not impact the area.
“We’re confident in this site, and we’re just focused on the next step in the process,” Micheli said.
Topgolf has a contract with Brookfield Properties Retail Group, which owns Oxmoor Center, Micheli said. He declined to share details of that agreement.
Next, Topgolf will seek Metro Council’s approval, after which it would have to go through a permitting process. Topgolf could open about 18 months after Council approval, Micheli said.
Planning Commission member David Tomes said during his remarks that mall failures can be painful for a community and that, although Oxmoor Center is not failing, that was a consideration in his vote.
Kendall Merrick, the general manager of Oxmoor Center, said shopping centers need to evolve.
“What studies are showing is entertainment and dining options are very important to the consumers, and so Topgolf is the best example of an entertainment concept to come to a shopping center,” she said. “We’re just very excited about what’s ahead of us.”