To some, the addition of Topgolf near the Oxmoor Center mall would mean a new opportunity to socialize at a driving range, albeit a stadium-style one with high-tech golf balls and custom cocktails. But to others, especially some who live in the Hurstbourne area near the proposed site, Topgolf would be a neighborhood nuisance.
The fight over whether Topgolf should be allowed to build at the site of the closed Sears in the mall has raged for months. On Thursday, the Louisville Metro Planning Commission plans to vote on whether to recommend that the Metro Council approve Topgolf’s rezoning application, or not.
Supporters and opponents of the plan voiced their opinions during 11 hours of public meetings so far this month.
What the Planning Commission decides could have a major impact on Metro Council’s subsequent decision, said attorney Steve Porter, who is representing residents opposed to the plan. He said the Council typically takes the Planning Commission’s recommendation in routine cases. But this is a case that has captivated a community, so Porter said the final decision could go either way.
At the heart of the opponents’ concerns are what they say are the negative impacts the Topgolf facility, which would occupy more than 60,000 square feet, would have on the neighborhood, particularly on nearby homes. They said it could flood the surroundings with too much light and sound, contribute to drunken driving and hurt the character of the Hurstbourne area.
“My clients are all in favor of Topgolf locating in Louisville, just not near anybody’s houses,” Porter said.
Cliff Ashburner, an attorney representing Topgolf, said his clients undertook impact studies showing that the facility would contribute to improved traffic and lighting in the area, while sound levels would not change.
Countering criticism that Topgolf would not fit in a mall setting, Ashburner said the hitting bays would replace the empty Sears building and drive potential customers to other mall vendors. And he said that half of the 40 Topgolf locations in America are closer to residential areas and half are further, compared to the proposed Oxmoor Center site.
“Topgolf didn’t throw a dart at a map and come up with Oxmoor Center. It did a very in-depth evaluation of where in the Louisville market it could be successful, and determined that Oxmoor Center was the place for it,” Ashburner said.
If plans for Oxmoor Center are not approved, Ashburner said Topgolf would not consider locating in Louisville again for a long time. He said he could not say whether he and his clients would challenge a denial in court.
Democrat Sheri Donahue is running for the state senate seat to represent District 36, which includes Hurstbourne and the proposed Topgolf site. She said she does not want to see Topgolf turn away from Louisville.
“My concern is if we say no to a company like Topgolf coming in, that’s going to send the wrong message to other businesses that might be looking at Louisville to come in,” Donahue said.
Julie Raque Adams, a Republican and the incumbent state senator for District 36 who is running for re-election this year, has expressed opposition to the Oxmoor Center site. In May, she tweeted that Topgolf could locate near the Kentucky Expo Center, rather than in or near residential neighborhoods. She did not respond to a request for interview.
Now, with the public meeting part of the process concluded, the Planning Commission will vote on the issue at its regular meeting on Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Old Jail courtroom.