City Fines Owners Of Former Highlands Sterling Site For Homeless Camp
This story has been corrected.
The city is fining the owners of two historic properties on Bardstown Road after nearby residents complained to authorities last week about a small homeless camp there.
On Monday, a city inspector applied a $300 citation for violating public nuisance and unlawful use of property codes. “People occupying front of property, this is prohibited,” inspector Donald Gentry wrote, according to records available online.
The buildings at 1300 and 1306 Bardstown Road have been a source of controversy for the neighborhood in recent months. They were sold by the city at a discount in 2016 and, after subsequent plans to develop them into a brewery and taproom failed, they were sold for a large profit. A recent plan to turn them into mini storage fell apart after outcry from area residents.
Jeff Sleadd, who was the developer behind the mini storage plan and part of the new ownership group, did not respond to a request for comment on the citation.
In a previous email, he told WFPL that he was working with police and the Coalition for the Homeless to find a solution to the situation. He said he will announce a new plan for developing the properties soon.
“I can assure you we have no hard feelings against the neighborhood regarding the zoning hearing,” Sleadd wrote in an email response to a neighborhood resident and city officials, which was obtained by WFPL. The resident, Shawn Reilly, had suggested the owners may have been tolerating the encampment in retribution for shutting down the mini storage plan.
Councilman Brandon Coan, who represents the area where the buildings are located, said he received emails from two constituents concerned about the encampment. He said he worked to connect the necessary parties, including police, Codes and Regulations and the economic development department, Louisville Forward.
The owners should consider physically securing the properties with something like chain-link fencing since they are currently unoccupied, Coan said.
“I’m upset about the conditions of the properties and maintenance and security of the properties now, and I have been,” Coan said. “I think they have done an inadequate job of securing and maintaining the premises.”
He said the parties need to find a balance between helping the people who are camped out, particularly as winter weather sets in, and complying with regulations.
Major Aubrey Gregory, commander of the Fifth Division of the Louisville Metro Police Department, said there have three people regularly staying in tents at the site for a few weeks, including a married couple. There are others who come and go, he said.
In his email to Coan and others, Reilly complained about illegal activity at the site, including alcohol and drug use. Gregory said they had not seen or observed any such activity.
Reilly also mentioned an "illegal fire" at the property. Records from the Louisville Fire Department indicate there was a small trash fire in a bucket in front of 1306 Bardstown Road on Nov. 19. The fire was extinguished by two men at the site when firefighters arrived, records show.
In order to remove the individuals for trespassing, Sleadd would have to go to the site with an LMPD officer and initiate the process, which Gregory said has not yet happened. Sleadd told WFPL in an email that he and his business partner have “repeatedly” asked them to leave and posted “No Trespassing” signs.
Gregory said area residents and Coan alerted the police to the issue of people inappropriately staying on the properties. But that’s not enough to remove them for trespassing.
“They don’t have the legal authority to say who can be on your property,” he said.
The citation fee is due on Dec. 10. The inspector also wrote up violations, including a dumpster area that needs to be cleaned and improper electrical receptacles and extension cords on the property. No fines were applied for those violations.
Correction: The original version of this story stated the properties were sold by the city in 2015. They were sold in 2016.