LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - When I went out and recorded every place in Louisville designated as a historic landmark, more than 80 of them, I found some falling down eyesores that are making a lot of neighbors mad at the Louisville Landmarks Commission.
"The problem isn't landmarks," said Landmarks Commission member Jay Stottman. "The problem isn't some sort of rogue group of people who benefit somehow from landmarking everything, or trying to prevent development."
Stottman is an archaeologist who defends decisions to landmark places like the Twig and Leaf diner even though critics say it was done just to keep a drug store chain from building there.
"You can't preserve something if it's gone," said Stottman. "If you're not a little proactive about picking out sites before they're gone, there's nothing you can do about it after they're gone. How many diners of that era are still around? Not many."
Christ Temple Apostolic Church started tearing down the falling down Doerhoefer House on its West Broadway property to build a sanctuary. They were stopped by a landmarks decision that started with a petition. But more than half of the names on that petition came from people who don't live in that part of town.
"History isn't just one group's history," Stottman said. "It's everyone's history. So there should be input from everyone in the community."
Stottman said Colonial Gardens, site of Louisville's first zoo, didn't have to turn out in such sad shape.
"Actually they wanted to tear down the building and build a replica of it in the same spot for a restaurant," said Stottman. "If they'd just gone through the landmarks process, renovations process, they could've gotten what they wanted in a restaurant on that site, but in a much better situation, in a real historic building, not a fake one."
According to Stottman, the economic downturn is to blame, not the historic landmarks criteria, when places like the old Azalea's restaurant sit deteriorating for years.
"We don't just look at the guidelines and go no, no, no, no," said Stottman. "It's what can we do to solve the problem you have, and be true to historic preservation as well."
Landmarks decisions are ultimately up to Metro Council now. How that plays out is anyone's guess. Stottman said the Landmarks Commission is severely damaged now, and doesn't have any power at all.
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