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Residents can now apply to represent their neighborhood on the West End TIF board

Residents gathered at California Park on September 13 to hear from members of the West End Opportunity Partnership board.
Residents gathered at California Park on September 13 to hear from members of the West End Opportunity Partnership board.

The West End Opportunity Partnership, which will oversee new development and a multi-million dollar tax scheme in west Louisville, is looking for nine resident representatives.

The Partnership’s interim board recently agreed on a process for selecting the new members. The board will select 27 “neighborhood nominators,” three for each of the nine neighborhoods in the Partnership’s footprint. 

The nominators are expected to be made up of West End business, faith and nonprofit leaders who will review applications for the resident seats on the 21-member board.

DeVone Holt, an executive of Goodwill of Kentucky who represents the development group One West on the Partnership board, said in a statement that it was important to include civic leaders in the selection process.

“Giving the community control of the front end of this selection process will help ensure we have people on the board who are credible representatives of each of the nine West Louisville neighborhoods,” Holt said.

The West End Opportunity Partnership was created by the Kentucky General Assembly this year to incentivize the development of new businesses and housing in west Louisville. 

In addition to $30 million in seed money, the organization will oversee a tax increment financing district that encompasses the nine neighborhoods. That means Louisville officials will note how much tax revenue is being generated by these neighborhoods right now. For the next 20 years, the Partnership will control 80% of the revenue that comes in above that number. The group is  tasked with reinvesting that money into new development.

The Partnership has come under fire from activists and long-time West End residents who say the organization was given significant power without resident input. They also worry that the  investments drawn in by the Partnership will lead to gentrification and displacement.

The Partnership is currently operating with a 12-member interim board, selected by Governor Andy Beshear, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and local university heads. The board cannot make any substantive decisions until the nine resident representatives are seated.

Any West End resident interested in applying for a seat on the board can do so online or in person at the Louisville Urban League at 1535 W. Broadway. The Louisville Central Community

Center will host online information sessions throughout December for interested applicants.

Officials with the Partnership said the 27 neighborhood nominators will form working committees in late December. They’ll review applications based on a list of weighted criteria, including years of residency, whether someone owns a business and prior volunteer service. Long-term west Louisville renters will be given a preference over homeowners to reflect the area’s majority-renter population.

[related_status]https://wfpl.org/here-today-its-hard-out-here-for-a-renter/

The Partnership said the selection process is meant to empower residents to decide who will sit on the board. But Mariel Gardner, a Park Duvalle resident and activist with the #StopTheWestEndTIF campaign, said she feels it’s too little, too late.

“The time for listening to the community was at the start of this process, not right smack dab in the middle of it,” she said. “All of the ways in which they’ve tried to engage the community just haven’t landed very well.”

Gardner said the selection process also doesn’t address any of the concerns West End residents have raised about the potential for displacing long-time residents and how their tax dollars will be spent by the Partnership. 

She said the board selection process, which relies partly on business owners and other people with connections, basically ensures that residents with larger concerns won’t be on the board itself.

“I don’t think it’s design is to really give us, as residents and community members, a voice,” she said. “We haven’t had a voice thus far, why would they give us a voice now?”

The groups of neighborhood nominators are expected to give their list of top applicants to the board by the end of January. The Partnership’s interim board will then select the nine neighborhood representatives at its meeting on Feb. 12, 2022.

 

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.