Louisville Metro government is starting the process of looking for alternative locations for a large impound lot in Butchertown.

The lot is owned by Metro government and operated by the Louisville Metro Police Department. It’s where cars are stored after they’re towed, but also is often home to wrecked vehicles. The 10-acre lot is surrounded by prime real estate; it’s bordered by the Butchertown Greenway Trail and will be next to the future Waterfront Botanical Gardens and soccer stadium district.

It’s also an environmental hazard.

As WFPL reported in July, as water quality in nearby Beargrass Creek is improving, polluted runoff from the lot continues. Russ Barnett at the University of Louisville has tested that runoff, and found it contains traces of leaking oil, gas and transmission fluid.

Environmental groups have been pushing the city to move the lot, as well as to comply with the site’s state permit from the Kentucky Division of Water. The impound lot has had the same permit since 1993, but there was no record of the city ever performing the testing required by the permit until June 30, when WFPL initially made inquiries about the site.

In January, Metro government will begin soliciting ideas for alternative locations for the lot, looking for sites that fit the city’s criteria. The future site will have to be centrally-located, because many cars are towed from downtown.

Theresa Zawacki is the senior policy advisor to Louisville Forward. She said the city is also looking for a 15-acre parcel — larger than the current 10-acre lot.

“So we would be looking to substantially increase the capacity of that space,” Zawacki said. “And not just so we can park a bunch more cars there, but also so that we can manage the site in a way that may be different from the way it’s being managed today in terms of the types of opportunities to protect the soil and the groundwater and to really create a space that’s as unobtrusive as possible for the surrounding land uses.”

At the same time, city officials will open the process up for public comment and will hold several public meetings.

“And what we’re hoping will come out of that public conversation are not only ideas for location, but also potentially innovative suggestions that could help us manage the lot in ways that are different from the way we manage it now,” Zawacki said.

She added she’s not sure what the future use will be for the current impound lot, though it has a few challenges. There’s a high-voltage electric line running down the middle of the property, and parts of it are on a former landfill.

A new location for the lot should be selected by the middle of next year.