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Responding To Pressure, MSD Looks To Redesign Smoketown Basin

J. Tyler Franklin

The Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District will look to redesign a planned storage basin in the Smoketown neighborhood, pending approval from the agency's board.

The surprise move comes in response to pressure from Smoketown residents and neighbors of the site, who have said they were excluded from the decision-making process.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Mayor Greg Fischer and Tony Parrott, executive director of MSD, said the agency is looking to come up with a new design more aligned with other, similar basin projects in the works across the city.

Parrott said officials would ask the board to nix plans to build a windowless warehouse-style building on the site and instead build the basin beneath ground with a park on top.

The basin is one of a dozen such developments underway or planned across the city. They'll hold overflow sewage during heavy rains, preventing the overflow from running into local waterways. When the rain stops, the sewage will be pumped from the basin to treatment facilities.

The Smoketown project has been sharply criticized and contested by neighborhood groups in recent months. It's not the location but rather the proposed design that had the residents concerned.

The basin — currently under construction on Logan Street — is the only of the dozen projects that would be covered by a large, windowless building, according to current plans.

Neighborhood groups and residents threatened to fight the sewer district with litigation if the plans went unchanged.

Parrott said the new proposal would bring "an enormous grassy area" to the neighborhood, but warned two above-ground buildings would remain. Those buildings, he said, would house needed control equipment for the basin.

Parrott said changing the plans would also increase the cost of the project, which is estimated at $45 million under current plans. He couldn't say how much the cost might increase.

"Were going to be working with the neighborhood to get feedback," he said. "We want them to help us decide what they want."

Mayor Greg Fischer said the compromise between MSD officials and residents is "how good citizenship works."

"Hopefully it'll all work out in a real positive way," he said.

The MSD board is scheduled to meet Monday to discuss the proposed changes.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.