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August 28, 2007

City Strobe

Poe to Irish Hill: Turn the other creekIn the dark basement of the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana building on Lexington Road on Aug. 20, members of the Irish Hill community squarely directed their anger at one man. It was dark because they were watching a PowerPoint presentation; they were angry because that presentation showed the latest revisions to a development plan that will very likely change the face of their neighborhood.Poe Companies project development leader Eric Goodman presented the latest changes to The Crossings at Irish Hill development to the room, mostly full of opponents, with a handful of supporters scattered among them. The new plans modify the prior site plan that was discussed in March and include the nixing of a proposed home-repair store, an addition of 89,100 square feet of office condominiums, the deletion of 64 parking spots and a smaller restaurant — all of which totals an increased 217,270 square feet of combined retail space. Goodman said Poe Companies, the development firm in charge of the project, changed the design after hearing neighborhood and Metro government input. Most of the neighborhood input at this meeting centered on the possibility of flooding — the development sits near a creek and partially in a floodplain — and increased-traffic issues. The main sticking point with the residents of Irish Hill throughout the process — which began about 2-1/2 years ago — has been with the rerouting of Beargrass Creek.Goodman, a landscape architect, pointed out that Poe sees The Crossings as a brownfield environmental rehabilitation project, as the plans call for capping leftover petroleum and lead byproducts now in the ground and making the creek an aesthetically pleasing, meandering body of water. Goodman said no one has ever offered to buy the property in the 12 years that River Metals and Progress Rails have had it for sale, so anyone else planning to clean up the area seemed unlikely. Lisa Santos, co-chair of the Irish Hill Neighborhood Association, fought to keep the property out of developers’ hands before Poe got involved.“If they didn’t move the creek you think it would be smaller and have less traffic,” she said. “We want to see it developed into something a half to two-thirds of (the current plan).”Earlier designs kept the creek where it runs now, but Goodman said those proved unfeasible because of the invasive requirements called for by the capping and cleaning process.For now, developers will meet with the MSD floodplain board in September, and then try to downzone the area for commercial use at a planning commission meeting tentatively slated for November. Meanwhile, an Army Corps of Engineers review board is studying Poe’s hydrological and hydraulic survey.As for the plans, Goodman thinks it’s currently the best possible option for the site, although sidewalk designs could be tweaked and building materials could change. For Santos and the frustrated dozens who showed up at the neighborhood meeting, though, they may soon find themselves up a rehabilitated creek without a paddle. —Ryan RealKY seeks eye-replacement eyeGov./Dr. Ernie Fletcher took a well-deserved break from hating gambling last week to spend some time hating killing. And what better way to show revulsion for killing than by signing a death warrant? With a jaunty wink at his Hippocratic Oath to “never deliberately do harm to anyone,” Dr. Fletcher signed the death warrant for Ralph Steven Baze, who is convicted of the 1993 murder of two Powell County policemen. Barring appeals, Kentucky will kill Baze on Sept. 25, six weeks before Election Day. Baze’s execution would be the first in Kentucky since 1999, which makes the commonwealth downright civilized compared to Pentateuchian, Texas. Them boys just offed their 400th prisoner since 1982, almost single-handedly keeping the U.S. among the world’s elite eight in executions, behind China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Sudan. Lest you think Republicans are the only pro-death party, note that Democrat Attorney General Greg Stumbo asked Dr. Fletcher to sign the Baze warrant and that Democrat gubernatorial candidate Steve Beshear dashed out a statement supporting the death penalty for “certain specific crimes.”Meanwhile, another Kentucky death-row inmate wants his conviction set aside because prosecutors lost DNA evidence. Convicted murderer Brian Keith Moore claims DNA on missing pants would prove he is innocent of a 1979 murder. The pants-less prosecutors contend Moore is trying to get off on a technicality, but more than 100 death-row prisoners have been released nationwide in recent years, 13 of them because new DNA tests proved their innocence.But wait, there’s more. Yet another death-row inmate is making headlines in Kentucky. Convicted child-killer Marco Allen Chapman asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to uphold his death sentence, despite defense arguments that anyone asking for death is incompetent by default. The court sided with Chapman, perhaps suggesting that his death wish is the sanest argument of the week. —Jim WelpWhen coming down is a good thingKentucky, which helped OxyContin earn the nickname “hillbilly heroin,” got the surprising news from the Drug Enforcement Administration last week that its national ranking in prescription-painkiller purchases has dropped to 43rd. While experts hailed the trend, the monkey isn’t exactly sliding off the commonwealth’s back: Purchases aren’t down; rather the rate of increase in purchases dropped.Thanks in part to pharma-to-physician payola, sales of painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin and morphine increased here 62 percent between 1997 and 2005, compared to 88 percent for the nation as a whole, proving that Americans are roughly as high as Samuel Taylor Coleridge at the pleasure-dome’s after-party. War-on-Drugs officials cautioned that painkiller abuse is still widespread in Kentucky, but they did agree to drop the alert status from “Elvis” to “Limbaugh.” —JWMore bike lanes on the wayThe Kentucky Transportation Cabinet forked over $2.7 million last week so Louisville Metro could get moving on a handful-plus-one of projects, including five new diesel buses for TARC and a new PR campaign about air-quality issues by Kentuckiana Air Education. The city also got $100,400 to continue expanding bike lanes, which it will do as it resurfaces certain roads. Look for a more extensive network to hit downtown streets first. The appropriation comes at a time of certain momentum for cyclists in Louisville: Just a couple weeks ago, the city unveiled new signage and “sharrows,” signs painted on roadways — featuring a stenciled cyclist and two chevrons — meant to remind motorists and cyclists that they need to get along on the road. Bike lanes, which allow cyclists to be technically separate from traffic but still move as a part of it, are part of a larger push by city officials, avid cyclists and this newspaper to make the culture here more bike-friendly. —Stephen GeorgeContact the writers at citystrobe@leoweekly.com