Kentucky Primary 2020: Louisville Metro Council District 8 Candidates
Current District 8 Councilman Brandon Coan is not running for reelection, and there are three Democrats vying to replace him. There are no Republicans running in the primary, so whichever candidate wins the June 23 Democratic primary will take office in January 2021.
District 8 represents parts of the Highlands and some surrounding areas.
WFPL held a virtual candidate forum on May 20 for all three candidates. You can view the forum in its entirety here. The following answers are drawn from the candidates' remarks during the forum, and are edited for clarity when necessary.
CASSIE CHAMBERS ARMSTRONG is a lawyer and the vice-chair of the Kentucky
Democratic Party. She says her career has been focused on policy and advocacy. Armstrong received endorsements from outgoing councilman Brandon Coan, the Fairness Campaign’s political action committee, and others. Her priorities include improving walkability and sustainability in the Highlands.
Listen to Armstrong's opening statement:
Listen to Armstrong's closing statement:
Armstrong on how she would help District 8 businesses recover
Armstrong on the Metro Council’s 100% clean energy resolution
Armstrong on ideas to address Louisville’s budget situation
Armstrong on ideas to change or improve Bardstown Road
Armstrong on no-knock warrants
Armstrong on District 8’s critical issues
Armstrong on regulating short-term rentals
Armstrong on the One Park project
DAN BORSCH is a restaurant owner who serves on Louisville’s Urban Services District
Board, which sets tax rates in that area. He is also a lawyer. Borsch received endorsements from current Democratic council members including Brent Ackerson (District 26), Kevin Triplett (District 15) and president David James (District 6). Borsch’s major idea is burying power lines on Bardstown Road to beautify the corridor and expand the tree canopy.
Listen to Borsch's opening statement:
Listen to Borsch's closing statement:
Borsch on how he would help District 8 businesses recover
Borsch on the Metro Council’s 100% clean energy resolution
Borsch on ideas to address Louisville’s budget situation
Borsch on ideas to change or improve Bardstown Road
Borsch on no-knock warrants
Borsch on District 8’s critical issues
Borsch on regulating short-term rentals
Borsch on the One Park project
SHAWN REILLY is a small business owner and is a vice president of the Tyler Park Neighborhood Association. He focused on neighborhood support during this campaign, and has received endorsements from several area residents. Reilly wants to strengthen neighborhoods and ensure each one has an official plan.
Reilly previously faced public intoxication charges, some of which were dismissed. He was also a witness to the murder of his roommate Zachary Scarpellini in the Highlands in 2003, and was involved in a federal investigation due to his involvement with the secret recording of Sen. Mitch McConnell in conversation with his campaign staff through a door. That was in 2013, when he was executive director of the Democratic activist group Progress Kentucky.
In a recent candidate forum, Reilly did not address his connection to the McConnell incident. He did speak about Scarpellini’s murder. “People have brought this up to me and I’ve been aware that people are trying to use this against me, but out of respect for the victims’ family, I’ve been reluctant to talk about it until now.” Reilly said the killing and subsequent trial were extensively covered in local media, and the perpetrator is now in jail.
Listen to Reilly's opening statement:
Listen to Reilly's closing statement:
Reilly on how he would help District 8 businesses recover
Reilly on the Metro Council’s 100% clean energy resolution
Reilly on ideas to address Louisville’s budget situation
Reilly on ideas to change or improve Bardstown Road
Reilly on no-knock warrants
Reilly on District 8’s critical issues
Reilly on regulating short-term rentals
Reilly on the One Park project
What are your ideas for helping the businesses in District Eight survive and recover from the losses they're experiencing right now?
“Well, you know, the heart and soul of Bardstown Road is restaurants and retail. And that's what I've done my entire career. Unfortunately, a few years ago, I experienced a real travesty. On my wife's birthday, I received a call at three in the morning that one of my restaurants was on fire and it was a total loss. So I've been in really challenging circumstances and through tough decisions, leadership, and perseverance, I rebuilt the restaurant, reopened it, and have continued to grow it to this day.
“And that's the type of real world experience that translates in a crisis like this to good policy outcomes. I've had to pull permits, I've had to deal with the city to make changes to my buildings. And we're going to have to really adjust the way that we zone, the way that we operate building codes to make sure that we do have success from our small businesses, and that we don't see the Amazons of the world and other large corporate chains come and buy out all of our small local independent businesses.”
“Actually, a few weeks ago, I started actively working on this very problem. You know, I didn't want to wait until being elected to Metro Council because this issue is too important to our neighborhoods and to our businesses.
“So I started actively reaching out to different restaurants along Bardstown Road, asking them how we can help them reopen and reopen safely with social distancing. And so through my work with the Center For Neighborhoods and their experience in building parklets — what is we turn unused on-street parking into outdoor space — I started actively working with the city to implement a parklet plan for Bardstown Road. And so I've been in conversations with the Office of Advanced Planning, the Mayor's Office and KYTC about how we can make this safely happen and how we can get our restaurants that much needed outdoor space.
“My real concern is for restaurants that don't have any outdoor seating and have very small sidewalks. I'm thinking of restaurants like Highland Morning, Public House, Dragon King’s Daughter, Louvino. These restaurants through no fault of their own had to shut down and can only reopen with 33% capacity. If we can give them any additional outdoor seating, that will help prevent them from going bankrupt. And that's what this is about: trying to save people's businesses and trying to save people's livelihoods. And I'm actively working on this right now. I'm not waiting to get on Metro Council.”
Cassie Chambers Armstrong:
“Tomorrow morning, I'm going to be releasing my comprehensive coronavirus plan and this is actually point one in it: supporting our small businesses because I think it's the most crucial thing we can do.
“Of that $115 million budget shortfall that I mentioned at the top, 47% is because of decreased payroll taxes because businesses don't have as many people on their staff and 11% is because of decreased profits from businesses that are no longer being taxed. So supporting our small businesses isn't just the right thing to do; it's good for the city as a whole.
“I think there are three things that we need to focus on whenever we're looking at how we support our small businesses in District Eight. The first is we need to continue to advocate for federal funding, things like PPP loans, and we need to make sure that those PPP loans are structured in a way that they're actually useful to the businesses that are getting them. For example, I know that in the first round of PPP loans, there was some concern from the small business community that maybe because of the staffing requirements, and the ways that these were put together, that they wouldn't actually be forgivable. And so we need to make sure that we as a unified Metro Council and unified city are adding our voice to make sure that we're advocating at those different levels of government.
“We also need to continue to remain creative and flexible. Eight weeks ago, we had no idea that our small businesses, their biggest need was going to be ‘How do we figure out how to turn sidewalks and parking lots into seating?’ We just didn't know that was going to be it. So we have to be creative around things like zoning and permitting and really be adaptive. And that leads me to our third point: we have to make sure we're listening to the small business community. I've been doing that actively throughout this campaign and I would form a small Business Advisory Board to make sure that I was keeping my ear to the ground on these ongoing challenges.”
Do you support the Metro Council's hundred percent clean energy resolution and what measures do you think the council should enact to reach the resolution’s goals?
“I do. I support the 100% renewable energy resolution because climate change is 100% real. And I have actually been on the streets with members of the 100% Renewable Energy Coalition holding signs and standing with them. And I was actually there the night this resolution passed Metro Council; I felt like it was such a historic moment for our city that I wanted to make sure that I was there, I was present and I was standing beside those individuals working to pass that resolution. And I really want to commend them for a job well done. I know that some of their work got passed over because of the coronavirus pandemic but they have put together a really great plan in terms of implementing how we're going to achieve these goals. And I've been actually working with them in terms of, you know, maybe see what their plans are. And I want to listen to them and make sure that we are on the same page. They have put a lot of thought and time into this. And I don't think that any one person can solve climate change; it has to be a collaborative effort. I'm actually bringing those people in and looking at their plans.
“One small thing that we can do is — I have it here at my house — a smart meter for the power grid. And so that's one small thing that we put on all city buildings is getting that smart meter so that the building managers can see where the energy usage is and start to make those energy improvements.”
Cassie Chambers Armstrong:
“I absolutely support the resolution, and I'm committed to implementing it. I think the city's announced plan of doing an energy audit is a great first step to figure out how we're using energy and where we can improve. There are a lot of creative things we can do to help meet our goals and I think it's really important that we get there.
“One thing they've done in Seattle, for example, is they've switched their fleet of city vehicles to electric so they actually have electric garbage trucks driving around their city streets. I think, you know, we can look into creative ideas like that, we can look into things like more solar panels on our city buildings, and making sure that any new city buildings that go up are LEED certified. These are easy steps we can take to start moving towards our goals.
“We can also look at things like making sure that we have green or cool and reflective roofs on our city buildings. And another thing we could look at is possibly building a solar field on a brownfield site, like Lees Lane or another such site here in Louisville. So there are a lot of things we can do.
“I think, again, it's really important to make sure that we are being collaborative, reaching out to the people who have been working on these issues. I believe the collaborative problem solving is how you produce those sustainable solutions. I want to build a coalition with folks who have been doing the work and hear their ideas, and make sure that we are moving forward to really to hit these goals, because it's such an important thing for our city to be focused on. I'm really proud that our city passed this ordinance.”
“I studied environmental policy for my undergrad degree and obviously, I’m extremely supportive of it. We haven't moved fast enough, frankly. And let me tell you, I think one of the elephants in the room that we don't talk about is our relationship with Louisville Gas and Electric. It's a monopoly utility, and we're not exercising oversight, we need to force them to move quicker to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.
“There are literally hundreds of different opportunities out there to reduce the amount of electric use, to increase the amount of solar in the community. Lots of low hanging fruit that I don't feel we've moved fast enough implementing. And one of the big challenges is how are we going to measure this as a community. One of the things we haven't talked about is our overreliance on single occupancy automobile travel. It's one of the things that are destroying our cities, and I hope everyone really appreciates now that we've seen clean air from the reduction in traffic and the reduction in industrial pollution, how nice it is and how quiet our city is and how much value there exists for a city that is aggressive and reducing a dependence on automobile traffic.
“I don't think it would be fair to categorize ourselves as carbon neutral if we don't take into account every aspect of fossil fuel use, including automobiles. I definitely look forward to working on the Metro Council with my background environmental policy to make changes like this reality.”
Even before the pandemic, Louisville’s city budget was under pressure with more than $25 million last year to pay for employee health care and pension costs. How would you address this issue as a council member and what are your ideas for improving Louisville’s budget situation?
Cassie Chambers Armstrong:
“You're certainly correct that this was an issue that existed before the coronavirus crisis, and of course, the coronavirus crisis has only made it that much more pressing, and that much more worse.
“I think the first thing we have to do is continue to advocate for federal relief funding. We need things like rent relief; a lot of the existing funding that we've already gotten in the form of federal relief has had restrictions, so we can't necessarily use it in the way that our city needs to. Joining as our current Metro Council has done and saying, We need help, you know, we need to provide these services federal government, you know, this is your job, please step in. And I will say my experience working in federal government and state government, I think gives me the perspective in the background to understand how all these different levels of government fit together and how I can truly advocate for our community.
“I think the other thing that we, you know need to talk about is the use of the rainy day fund. I think we'll certainly have to utilize some of that; we certainly don't want to drain it to zero. And we want to keep in mind how long it has taken to accumulate. We also want to keep in mind that our rainy day fund is tied to our overall bond rating. So while we might need to tap into it to some extent, to be able to make sure that we're really meeting those essential needs, we don't want to drain it to zero because that has serious long-term consequences.
“I am hopeful that we will be able to get the funding we need and get the relief we need, and that we won't have to be looking at cuts. If we are looking at cuts, it is so essential that we preserve those truly essential services that folks in the district rely on such as our police and our firefighters. And so, I hope we don't get there, but I think it's important that we have a realistic plan if we do.”
“Well, first I'd like to point out to Cassie: fire protection is actually included in the urban service district, the old city of Louisville. We pay extra taxes on property. And that goes to the dedicated fund to pay for fire protection, street cleaning, garbage collection and street lighting. So that it has to be off limits; the revenue from that is not going to change. And in fact, Councilman Coan appointed me to that board, because we both had concerns about how the city was allocating money to those services. And we saw some cuts last year that I don't think were right. And since merger, we've not done an accurate accounting of those revenues and expenses. We don't have a balance sheet for the urban services district. And I'm calling for an audit since merger of exactly how much revenue and expenses. Because when we're going to be forced to make tough cuts, we should be realistic about what revenue is generated into different areas. And make sure that if it's statutorily required to go to those services, that we spend it on those services.
“I also want to say I think we've made a lot of mistakes over the years in the way that we look at economic development, we subsidize big businesses. We subsidize large luxury hotels, sports stadiums, soccer stadiums, they look like great civic projects, but here we are. We knew at some point we're going to have tough times. And too much of our economic development plan was based on those types of huge projects that really didn't benefit the average person. We need to do a much better job investing in our existing center city to generate higher property taxes. We have over 6000 abandoned properties — I served on the Urban Land Bank Authority trying to rectify that — and we're going to have to build to generate more revenue.”
“On the on the budget, with the shortfall that we're facing, I support the mayor's proposal for the continuation budget. I think that's definitely the best thing to do right now. And I have answered the mayor's call to reach out to our congressmen and our senators and ask them for that much-needed federal aid that we need for our city.
“It's just with so much uncertainty, he's thinking $150 million shortfall; we don't know, it could be worse than that. So right now, I think it's kind of a hold tight situation and see what the federal government is going to do. Hopefully, Mitch McConnell will come to his senses; he's been making some really outrageous claims in terms of letting cities go bankrupt and things like that.
“But on the city level, I think there are some things that we can do; that we've been making some bad decisions in the past. You know, typically in terms of urban sprawl, and the infrastructure that we're building, new infrastructure we're creating: we're building new roads, building new water lines and sewer lines, and all that new infrastructure that we're building is adding to our long-term maintenance obligations. So I really want to take a look at that and see if we could implement something like a growth boundary that would limit the growth of the city and really focus on that urban core. Because we can't keep adding these long-term debt obligations to our city. It's just not sustainable.”
What are your ideas for changing or improving Bardstown Road?
“I hope everyone's had a chance to see the vision I put onto Facebook and I'm sharing. We have to make a generational investment in Bardstown Road. It's been over 30 years since we made significant improvements. And the only way we're really going to make changes that are going to change the trajectory of the street is if we bury the power lines and plant a true tree canopy.
“An investment at that scale is going to lead to many more visitors to our neighborhood. It's going to change the feel of the street. As we deal with global climate change and the increase in temperatures, having that tree canopy in the summer, it's going to provide shade and keep temperatures lower. It will make Bardstown Road into the world class city that we know it could be and it'll ensure for generations that we have success. When we have those types of quality investments in our existing infrastructure, we generate more revenue because of the increase in property values. We generate more traffic to the small independent restaurants that we love. We have better quality experiences as we visit Bardstown Road with our kids. We slow the traffic, it feels better, safer, and it will make sure that our neighborhood is sustainable for years to come.
“It's not easy, it's challenging. It's expensive, but it more than pays for itself. And those are the types of investments that we have not been making as a community. That's the low hanging fruit and it's not just Bardstown Road. It's all across our community. We must have better quality streetscapes if we're going to see the continued success of Bardstown Road going forward.”
“I've been working on this issue for quite some time with the Bardstown Road Improvement Group and I believe in making small bets on the corridor to test and see what works. Coming out of this coronavirus pandemic, we don't know what the budget’s going to look like and so if we can make small bets to improve the corridor, I think that's the way to go. In terms of talking with businesses, what would benefit them the most right now is fully putting an end to the crazy lane switch light system that we have in place. Bardstown Road is the only road in the country that has both a lane switch light system and on-street parking. There's many places like San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge that has a lane switch, but they don't have on-street parking. And so what does the rest of the country know that we don't know here in Louisville?
“The first thing I would do would be to advocate to end that lane switch light system and that'll do a whole host of things for our businesses without costing a lot of money. It'll provide businesses prime parking, from those four to six hours when shoppers should be visiting stores, going to retail shops. Right now, if somebody pulls up to Edenside Gallery at 3:30, and they go in to make a purchase of a, maybe $500 Bob Lockhart sculpture. Nancy's going to have to tell them, you know, ‘Hey, you've got to move your car, you're getting ready to be towed.’ Now maybe that customer comes back. Maybe they park in front of a neighbor's house. Maybe they don't come back and Nancy loses the sale. So the first thing I would do is end the lane switch light system.”
Cassie Chambers Armstrong:
“I certainly think we need a comprehensive plan to address Bardstown Road. I think we all agree that Bardstown Road needs some improvements. As someone with a master's degree in Public Health, when I was in the U.S. Senate, I spent a lot of time focused on grants to communities, to make communities more walkable. And the idea around walkability is that improving walkability actually improves pretty much every metric of an urban area. It increases the retail along the corridor because people spend more money when they're traveling on foot. It makes people actually get out, it increases your sense of community, crime goes down because there are more people on the sidewalks. To get that more walkable feel that public health professionals really strive for in these types of situations, you need to certainly take steps like traffic calming measures on Bardstown Road, slowing down the traffic.
“I am a new mother myself; I go out and push my stroller along Bardstown Road all the time. The number of times I have seen other moms with strollers almost get hit at some of our crosswalks is just astounding to me. And every time I just hold my breath. So we certainly need to make improvements to our crosswalks. Right now we're basically inviting traffic in with our traffic flow pattern from 264 to just run these cars over capacity on Bardstown Road right down through our district. And so I think a comprehensive plan to really look at how we make it this holistically thriving corridor is important.
“I just want to note that I dispute that I disagree with Dan's idea that burying power is low-hanging fruit. It was estimated to be a million dollars per mile decades ago. It's a really expensive project and environmental engineers actually think that it can be problematic at the very goals it's intended to solve. While it's supposed to protect power lines, when you bury things underground they’re a lot harder and more expensive to service, especially when you have big tree roots involved.”
In recent days, the killing of Breonna Taylor by Louisville Metro Police in March has reached national news. Police used a so-called no-knock warrant to enter Taylor's apartment as part of narcotics investigations. What is your position on no-knock warrants?
“I agree with Councilman David James on this situation. In that the city of Louisville should reduce and restrict the use of no-knock boards to only the very most serious investigations that justify their use.
“These no-knock warrants very clearly are putting police and citizens in a very dangerous situation; when you have somebody in their house thinking that they are being robbed or their house has been broken into, we've seen what the result of that is. And so, I would like to look to David James, a former police officer that we should severely restrict and reduce the use of these no-knock warrants.”
Cassie Chambers Armstrong:
“I just want to start off by saying my thoughts and my heart is with Breonna Taylor's family. It's just such a tragedy, and it has been in my thoughts and been weighing very heavy on my heart.
“As a lawyer, I spent time clerking for both a state court and a federal court judge and in that role, I got to see and become familiar with the criminal process. I was horrified by the use of a no-knock warrant in this situation. I think that it was absolutely inappropriate. We know that no-knock warrants increase the risk both to our police and to our civilians: they've been linked to fatal shootings all over the country.
“I listened to the public safety committee hearing this afternoon. I'm interested in learning if there is a legitimate use for no-knock warrants. I'm having a hard time right now understanding it myself. I certainly think that this was an inappropriate use of it and I'm very much looking forward to an investigation and an independent evaluation of that and making sure that the facts come out.”
“This was heartbreaking and so disappointing for our community and I just really feel for her family and I hope justice is served.
“We're just seeing too many mistakes by the Louisville police department and I think it goes back to the way we train our officers. I really want to see a push for de-escalation as a strategy for dealing with any kind of situation. I think that applies as well to no-knock warrants, which clearly should, if they're used at all, be exceptionally rare. And this was clearly not a case where they should have used it.
“With the restaurant business, I've had to interact many times with great officers dealing with many problems that exist in the community. Most of them are just great people. But ultimately, depending on their training is how they respond and in scary situations the direction that's given by the police chief plays a critical role. I’ve really enjoyed meeting the chief, but I'm just struggling to see, given the litany of issues that have come out of this police department, how we continue. I want to see him speak to what changes are going to be made, so that we can quickly move in a different direction as a police force.”
In your view, what are the critical issues facing District Eight that you would tackle first as this district’s councilmember?
Cassie Chambers Armstrong:
“I think that we have to reevaluate everything that we're talking about in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that we don't know what the situation we're walking into is going to be like on day one of service. It is a changing and evolving situation and that's why I really think that’s what the residents of this district should be looking for: someone with experience in public health, government policy being adapted to the situation. I think I have that background.
“I think that really we're going to be focused on supporting our small businesses, which is something we talked about earlier. We're going to be focused on making sure that our city as a whole is able to recover from this pandemic because I think what we've realized coming out of this is the coronavirus has shown us if we want our city to thrive we all have to thrive. The health inequities in different parts of our city — the fact that you know, 23% of Louisville residents are black, and something like 34 or 35% of coronavirus fatalities are residents of color — it's really shown us the way that these disparities we're all in this together. And we all are, if we're all going to rise, we all have to rise.
“I still want to focus on the goals I had before this pandemic for our district. Things like making it clean and green and walkable and safe and inclusive and vibrant. But I think we have to recognize that the context in which we're achieving those goals has shifted, and I think we have to remain flexible. I think it's still important. I think we just have to adjust the way that we're walking to get to where we need to be.”
“I'm just really disappointed Cassie doesn't share a vision for this district and doesn't understand how this community hasn't invested in our existing infrastructure and our long-term neighborhoods over the last few decades. We've seen interstates widen, which cost hundreds and millions of dollars. We've seen investments in luxury hotels downtown that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. We owe a billion dollars on the Yum Center. And if you look at any world class city, a street that ranks high on any kind of metric, they do not have the nasty utility lines that we have on Bardstown Road with our narrow sidewalks. We have to make an investment of that scale to really change the dynamics of the street and support our small local businesses and create better quality neighborhoods.
“And it will pay for itself many times over. There's over 400 properties assessed between Taylorsville Road and Broadway that are worth $200 million. If we're going to give tax breaks to large companies, we have to, in turn, invest in our existing small local businesses. I've been a small businessman, I've met budgets, I understand investments. And understanding the restaurant business and the restaurants out on Bardstown Road and the amount of money they generate in tax revenue, if we make an improvement like this, we're going to see hundreds of thousands more visitors that are going to directly contribute to higher occupational taxes. More people will be employed, people will spend more money at the small businesses. We’ll create an environment that attracts even better quality businesses. We won't have to worry about the vape shops because there'll be so much demand for the street. We'll be attracting dozens of new businesses.”
“I’ve been talking to hundreds and hundreds of voters over the past few days and throughout this campaign thousands. And really what I've been hearing throughout the campaign and still even now, with the coronavirus is that people are really focused on the day-to-day issues that affect their lives. I really want to work to focus on protecting public service; I’m talking things like, people are still worried about is their trash going to be collected. People worried about their yard waste. I know they sound like little things, but this is what people are telling me that they're concerned and worried about: making sure that we fill our potholes, taking care of our sewer and water lines here in the district.
“And then also, people are very interested in still increasing the tree canopy, making sure that we support those tree planting initiatives. But, you know, once we take care of the public services, and basic needs of trash and potholes and things like that, the two things I'm hearing the most about are a Bardstown Road revitalization plan. And I think that really has to be citizen-driven. It can't be a top down approach. As we've seen, those top down approaches don't work. And the other thing is really trying to strengthen neighborhoods and make sure that every neighborhood has a plan with the city and that plan is legally binding and is updated every five years. That way, if there's a development that comes into a neighborhood, those neighbors have a fighting chance in terms of making sure they get a good project that fits their neighborhood.”
How do you believe short-term rentals should be regulated in Louisville? And how would you like to enforce compliance with what you propose?
“Well, the reality now with COVID-19 is that's not going to be as big of an issue as it was. But the way we address something like that is by looking at zoning and building codes. There's obviously demand for more housing in desirable areas of our town. We've limited how property owners are able to develop their property to the next highest level of use. And it's not just in neighborhoods that are all residential, but even along commercial corridors. Really a large part of it is in our urban core and West End. If we were if we had more flexibility in our zoning and building codes, we would see developers come in and address the shortfall of housing that we have, and make sure that we're not driving up the cost of rental by taking these houses off the market.
“And then secondly, I think we really need a system that measures how well does somebody operate their business? If you have a system that grants a right to have an Airbnb, with no way for new people to do it, then you've locked in who has one and you limit the possibility of ever moving on to a different location.”
“This is something I've been focused on for some time that we've been dealing with here in Tyler Park as Airbnbs move into our neighborhood. In my talks with other neighborhood leaders, those people over in Deer Park, neighborhood leaders in the Original Highlands, over in Bonnycastle and in Cherokee Triangle, this something that is top of the mind for people because these short term rentals really are changing the fabric of our neighborhoods and not for the better.
“We're setting up a situation where we have a commercial use happening in a residential neighborhood. Now I am not against an individual homeowner who wants to have an Airbnb rented out from time to time. What I'm against is these out-of-town investors who are turning a house into a hotel and setting up a bad situation for the neighbors. Additionally, it does create an adversarial relationship in the neighborhood. I've been to several of these Airbnb meetings where you're pitting neighbor against neighbor on the situation.
“I would like to see the zoning change to where non-owner occupied Airbnb are located in a C2 commercial zone and what that means for the Highlands is those Airbnbs need to be on the commercial corridor. And that would free up those houses that are currently in the neighborhood to return either to regular rental or single family housing.”
Cassie Chambers Armstrong:
“I've heard a lot of concerns, primarily about the non-owner occupied, absentee landlord out-of-state corporations who come in. One person was sharing with me a story about a company that actually advertised their short-term rental as ‘perfect for bachelor parties.’ And so all of a sudden, every weekend in their neighborhood, there's a bachelor party that was billed as ‘come here for a wild and crazy time.’ And we don't want that in our neighborhoods. We don't want that around our children. And really, that's not what residential neighborhoods are supposed to be about. It's sort of a backdoor way to get these commercial uses in.
“People are less concerned about the owner-occupied ones, whenever you have that owner on site who really is invested in making sure that things go well, and any of those negative externalities are kind of eaten and taken in.
“One thing that I would continue that I think Councilman Coan has done a great job of is advocating for the 600-foot rule. A lot of times in these zoning meetings, if nobody shows up to sort of say, ‘Hey, there's a 600-foot rule, and we should be following it,’ it's frequently waived. And so I think continuing that practice of just going and saying, ‘We have this thing, it's designed to make sure that all of the short-term rentals don't creep in and change the fabric of our neighborhood.’ I think that's a really important step and that's a practice that I would continue.”
Do you support the One Park Project?
“I kind of want to go back to Airbnbs real quick. In terms of the 600-foot rule, the city is actually waiving that rule over 80% of the time. That rule is not been effective at all, in terms of limiting these Airbnbs. So that's something that has got to change. It's not being enforced. And there are many properties within the 600-foot rule and the city is waving it over 80% of the time.
“But now on onto the One Park project. That piece of land, I think it is a good project for urban infill and urban development. However, I do have some concerns about the size of it. One major concern I thought in terms of looking at the plan was just the sheer amount of parking that is at that property. And that's a function of the city's parking minimum rules. In terms of looking at that project, I think it could be right sized a little bit better, but also, just the tremendous amount of parking I think is a bit much. I would like to look to see if we could change the city's minimum parking requirements to where they don't have to have that sheer amount of parking.”
Cassie Chambers Armstrong:
“In general, I favor density of development. I think it's good for the feel of a neighborhood, I think it's good for combating climate change. I think it has to be the right kind of infill development. This one, it's been approved, it's moving forward. What I'm telling folks is I'm closely monitoring a lot of the issues that residents in the neighborhoods around there have told me they're concerned about. They're concerned about things like traffic, they're concerned about things like parking. These are things we can keep an eye on. They're concerned about things like blasting and construction getting in the way of their day-to-day lives. And I think what is most helpful now that this project is moving forward is to talk about how we make it something where we can mitigate people's concerns and make it you know, a good thing for the neighborhood and make sure that we're mitigating any harms and that's really where my focus is going to be.”
“Given these changing times the likelihood that that project is going to move forward at this scale that has been proposed to this point is pretty unlikely. So we'll have to revisit that down the road."