May 20, 2008

Developer pulls Irish Hill plan

Poe Companies has withdrawn its plan for a $35 million mixed-use development on the site of a former scrap yard in the east-central neighborhood of Irish Hill. And in a letter to neighbors of the site, developer Steve Poe blamed his decision to halt the project on two residents who’ve dared to tangle with the powerful developer over environmental issues relating to a plan to reroute part of Beargrass Creek. Now, instead of a pair of big-box stores, smaller shops, restaurants and offices, Poe Companies said it would build mini-warehouses on the portion of the site it has optioned, which is closest to a row of houses facing Lexington Road. “I think it is a true missed opportunity,” Eric Goodman, project development manager for Poe, said Monday. “I feel like we are going back in time, and we’ve missed the opportunity to clean up something that needs to be cleaned up.” After years of industrial use, the site requires significant environmental cleanup. Poe’s letter blamed Lisa Dettlinger and Lisa Santos — members of the Irish Hill Neighborhood Association — for bringing down the project. The association sued over a floodplain variance for the project issued by the Metropolitan Sewer District and won, thus requiring a new round of regulatory issues for Poe. Citing that and their assumption that the association would continue to fight the development, Poe laid on a guilt trip. “The creek will continue to be full of steel, washing machines, engine blocks and other debris; the existing bridge will continue to back up water and no structures will be taken out of the floodplain,” Poe wrote. Dettlinger said the association has gotten supportive e-mails and calls. Naturally, she’s upset that Poe — also the developer of the Museum Plaza project downtown — would blame her for his withdrawal of a project. “It sounds like he’s crying and boo-hooing like a kid on a playground, and we’re getting a lot of feedback saying that,” she said Tuesday. Dettlinger added that the association doesn’t want mini-warehouses on the site, and that it’s an attempt by Poe to intimidate the neighborhood. On the contrary, Goodman said, they chose the warehouse plan because it requires very little bureaucratic work. —Stephen George