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MY WORD: Don’t misunderstand stance on outlet mall

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By Sylvia A. Schneider

I did not speak to the issue before the Triple S Planning Commission on Oct. 16 for a number of reasons: I hadn’t prepared anything, I wasn’t sure what the format would be, and I wanted to hear the presentation. However, in listening to the presenters for the zoning change request by Trio Development for its outlet mall project in Simpsonville, it occurred to me that we were taking a lot on faith and that some of the premises for this change were illusory.

  • I would hope that none of the commissioners is under the misconception that any of the residents of Hunters Pointe Estates either supports this zoning change or the Paragon project. We hired Steve Porter to negotiate minimum concessions for us from the Paragon group that would ensure a modicum of security and peaceful use for our development, as well as preserve and conserve a green zone that is so important in the maintenance of the wildlife, which enhances life in Shelby County. The lawyer for the Paragon group characterized our compromise with the company as support, and it is possible that our own lawyer’s unfortunate geniality gave that impression. That is absolutely untrue. We are adamantly opposed to this development, as I believe everyone south of I-64 is.
  • In spite of the traffic studies and Paragon’s expectations, one overwhelming consideration that has been completely ignored is the rather stark reality that with the exception of one weekend out of the year, Louisville is not, as it is called in the travel and tourism business, a destination. It has only a modest corporate presence and generates only a modest convention business. This is not an indictment; simply a statement of fact. It enhances the quality of life in this area for all of us. But the fact is that outlet malls succeed only when they operate as an alternative activity for tourists on vacation who are bored with the pool, the surf, the golf, the rides at the Magic Kingdom or whatever of bona fide tourist destinations. We need only look at the failed outlet malls in Seymour and Columbia, Ind., and Georgetown to see and understand the basic reality of this dynamic. Does Paragon expect a return on its investment based upon the activity of Derby Week and some desultory Christmas shopping? I don’t think so. But they have yet to demonstrate where the hordes of upscale shoppers are going to come from that will support this complex.
  • Additionally, in a world that increasingly relies on Internet shopping for its needs, the bricks-and-mortar model is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, as the bankruptcy of Borders Bookstores has demonstrated. Amazon’s business model calls for eventual same day delivery – to that end the massive warehouses that it is currently building, one of which is currently across the river. Gas is expensive and outlet malls rely on vehicular traffic. Why would I spend my gas money on shopping when free shipping and an infinite variety of choice and price are available to me in the comfort of my home at any time I choose? The very stores that will be leasing this space are all available online, and they always have the right size, color, etc.
  • The gentlemen from the Paragon group showed some slides of architectural schematics that drew on the architecture of Churchill Downs. I have absolutely no doubt that it is indeed their intention to draw on Louisville’s one international landmark to design the architectural footprint of their mall and we will have to look everyday for the rest of our lives at a kitschy architectural monstrosity that provides no beauty and offers no respite from the cringing embarrassment which we will all feel every time we attempt to avert our eyes. Apparently no one has informed Paragon that the gently rolling countryside that is Shelby County is an enclave of horse farms dedicated to the breeding and training of the American Saddlebred horse, heretofore a source of justifiable pride to the county.
  • The residents of greater Simpsonville south of I-64 whose only access to I-64 and the town is Buck Creek Road face an extended term of unmitigated misery and actual physical hazard of at least two years and very likely much longer as construction of the necessary access and left turning lanes as well as the actual project construction literally traps us in our homes. Considering the hefty property taxes that we pay, second only to Oldham County, this is an unjust punishment.
  • It is clear that this company has absolutely no interest in Shelby County, its people, their security, or the quality of life that we enjoy and for which many of us have made a significant investment. Even if they do generate their projected return on their investment, which I seriously doubt, their point of view will remain short term, whereas ours (and the Commissioners should ensure it) will always be long term. We live here. Unlike Paragon, we will not be writing off a bad investment in five years. We will be looking at empty buildings and crumbling parking lots.
  • I have lived here in Hunters Pointe Estates longer than anyone else, having been the first to build here 18 years ago. I have loved living here, watching the deer and the wild turkey. Last winter a Kentucky wildcat hunted my stream (no one who has heard the yowl of a wildcat can mistake it). It is a shy creature that seeks the streams to hunt small animals. There is a belief that our opposition to this project is based solely upon the preservation of property values. Of course we hope to protect our investment. But we understand that commercial opportunities will present themselves and that we can expect that things will change, that the rezoning of this parcel of this land will eventually be necessary. We also understand that there are other vested interests in the development of this land against which we are powerless without the protection of our zoning commission. It is up to our zoning commissioners to make sure that the changes that come satisfy the requirements of the Comprehensive Plan and thoughtfully and courageously direct the growth and preservation of Shelby County to the use and benefit of all the residents of the county.

The lawyer for the Paragon group reiterated several times that the fact that their application comes two months after the Horizon application should not influence the decision of the Commissioners, but that is exactly what it should do. These people are too late and their proposal is superfluous. The Horizon application has already been granted. But the commissioners must be aware that the Paragon proposal is completely ill advised, does not satisfy the spirit of the Comprehensive Plan, or respect the preservation and quality of life, all life, of Shelby County.

While the Paragon group projects a windfall of town and county monetary benefits, which may or may not materialize, I would hope that the gentlemen of the Triple S Planning Commission carefully consider all the ramifications of the proposed change, much of which poses a long term detriment.

 

Sylvia A. Schneider lives in Simpsonville.