La Grange Business Park

New retail development
seeks support from city, county

Oldham County business leaders
look to area officials for funds

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (July 2005) – The goal of the Oldham County Economic Development Authority is to create employment opportunities within the county. OCEDA may soon partner with city and county officials to accomplish this in the creation of a 1,000-acre business park in La Grange.

La Grange Development Map

OCEDA is a non-profit organization with the “interest of the community at heart,” said Joe Schoenbaechler, Oldham County Chamber of Commerce president. He has been serving as acting OCEDA director since the departure of former OCEDA director, James Roark, whose contract was not renewed.
Last year, OCEDA purchased an option from Badgett Holdings Ltd. of Madisonville, Ky., on 1,000-acres in the southern part of La Grange. The property is located between I-71, New Moody Lane and Hwy. 53. OCEDA’s intent is to exercise the option on or near July 1, said Schoenbaechler.
After purchasing the option, work was begun on a general plan of development to see what the property could look like. The Oldham County Planning and Zoning Commission then had to approve a Master Plan and rezone the area. The Planning Commission reviewed the ordinance in April and approved it. It is zoned as a planned unit development, said Emily Liu of the P&Z Commission.
In March, the La Grange City Council heard the first reading of an ordinance that would create a partnership between the city and the county to pay $20 million in bonds and split the money derived from some taxes. This will pay for the property purchase and initial infrastructure improvements.
The La Grange City Council approved the business park plans on May 16 and will annex the entire property. Fiscal Court heard the first reading of an ordinance for this project on June 21.
OCEDA will own the property and pay off the debt service through the sale of lots. If OCEDA cannot pay the debt service, the responsibility will fall to the city and county. Each government entity plans to set aside funds in an account for a year’s worth of debt service if such an amount is need.
Architects from Scott Klausing and Co. developed the Master Plan for this project. The Master Plan calls for 2.7 million square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of retail space and 850 housing units, said Liu.
In addition to residential and commercial areas, expanded golf courses and a 17-acre elementary school site, known as a True Neighborhood School, are slated for development. The community would be able to use the school for non-school related events, and its library would be open to the public. Various ball and soccer fields would connect to a park system.
Plans call for a multitude of residential living units, including high-end single-family homes, golf villas, rentals, condos, and patio-garden homes, said Master Plan architect Fran Scott. The homes will accommodate all ages and all family types. Many will be recreational oriented.
The property will also include many forms of non-residential units, said Scott, but no heavy industry. The only light industry permitted, if any, will be knowledge-based industries. This would include office jobs or high-tech jobs.
There will be a center of development, known as the Neighborhood Center that will promote a combination of uses. “It will be a 21st century version of downtown La Grange,” said Scott.
The buildings would contain retail business on the first level, with residential above. They would be high end, small-scale shops such as cafes, comedy clubs, bookstores and coffeehouses. No superstores would be permitted to build on the site.
The East Point business development, the Neighborhood Center at Norton Commons and the open-air shopping area of The Summit, all in eastern Louisville, are a few examples that have incorporated ideas that may also be used in the La Grange Business Park.
“There are a number of mixed use developments throughout the country,” said Scott. He compared his plans to that of Cool Springs, a business park in Franklin County, Tenn. He called this southern Nashville complex “the closest prototype” of such an idea.
Two years ago, a group of Oldham Countians toured the Cool Spring’s development and were treated to a presentation from developers who had constructed Cool Spring’s business park. The Oldham County property presents “an excellent opportunity for the city,” said Scott.
Oldham County District 4 Magistrate Steve Greenwell, who was on the purchase agreement committee, said Oldham County “needs this very much.”
It is a good move for the county because it will not only broaden the tax base but also attract and retain businesses to create more jobs within the county, he said.
This project has been on the table since the fall 2003, said Greenwell. “The Master Plan is a good one” and just needs following through, he said. He would like to see a reasonable timeline established soon to “get things accomplished.”
State law requires a development authority to be made available, so the newly formed Oldham-La Grange Economic Development Authority will handle the financial aspects of the purchase agreement, including distribution of the $20 million in bond money. The six-member board will include three county officials and three city officials.
La Grange Mayor Elsie Carter recently returned from a trip to New York with several OCEDA members and Judge-Executive Mary Ellen Kinser. “The bond council had to apply for a bond rating,” said Carter. The applicants had to go to New York to do this.
The rating is expected to be released before July 1. The elected officials signing the bond includes Schoenbaechler and the city attorney, and they had to answer questions about La Grange and its finances while there, said Carter. They had to show that the city would be “able to sustain this big of a loan,” she said.
Carter said this is a good way to relieve the debt service on the citizens of La Grange. “It’s a big step for the city; a step in the right direction.”
One company has come forward to put down a large deposit on a tract of land within the business park. The name of the company cannot be disclosed yet because a contract has not been signed, but it would create 400 jobs. The selling price depends upon the company’s ability to provide jobs, said Carter.
Increased traffic congestion between Hwy. 53 and I-71 is a major concern of this project. Ideas have surfaced for an overpass to alleviate the anticipated traffic flow. The overpass would connect Allen Lane at Commerce Parkway to New Moody Lane. A new turning lane onto New Moody and other roadway improvements would be needed said Schoenbaechler.
The Master Plan shows the potential for an interstate interchange, but an overpass is more probable. The proposed interstate interchange site is too close to the existing La Grange interchange.
“We don’t need an interchange to make this project work, but we do need an overpass,” said Schoenbaechler.
State funding has been secured for a feasibility study for the overpass option, said Liu. Necessary improvements include right-of-way issues, the number of lanes needed and placement of necessary turning lanes. This overpass project would need the approval of the federal government, Schoenbaechler said.

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