Community Economy

A proposed affordable housing complex in Okolona that would cater to refugees and others will be considered by the full Louisville Metro Council after passing out of committee Tuesday.

The Council’s planning and zoning committee voted 6 to 1 to send proposed zoning changes for a 260-unit complex called Unity Place to the full body. Currently, the area is zoned for single-family residences, which make up most of the neighboring properties.

Committee chair and District 24 Councilwoman Madonna Flood, who represents Okolona, cast the dissenting vote because she said she still had many questions and concerns about the project.

Flood said there will be hundreds of new apartment units in other Okolona-area developments. She also said she had attended community meetings and found the applicant to be short on answers.

“I still have a lot of reservations and concerns about this because of where it’s located; the traffic out there is horrendous,” she said.

Increased traffic, the safety of pedestrians walking along busy Shepherdsville Road, an impact on property values and rising crime were among the concerns expressed by area residents this year, in writing and at public meetings.

Courtesy Louisville Metro

Currently, the area is zoned for single-family residences, which make up most of the neighboring properties.

At an Oct. 9 planning commission meeting, before the panel voted 5 to 2 to recommend that Metro Council approve requested zoning changes, Okolona resident Cathy Shott explained why she was opposed to the Unity Place proposal. She lives just northwest of the site.

“I have nothing against low-income people… I have nothing against refugees that enter the country legally,” she said. “I know everyone needs proper housing, but what I do have a problem with is the astronomical number of apartments they want to put in this little postage stamp.”

She continued, saying the developers were using outdated information, compiled before the building of a nearby shopping center, to assess the traffic impact of the complex.

At the same meeting, Okolona resident Semsudin Haseljic, a former refugee from Bosnia, offered support for the plan.

“It’s really, really important to have a place like Unity Place to offer these newly-arriving refugees to have a safe and secure housing, and then they can flourish from that neighborhood,” said Haseljic.

Haseljic is with Kentucky Refugee Ministries, which, along with Catholic Charities, plans to work with the developer, Barrister Commercial Group, on Unity Place.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Editor.