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CentrePointe: To be or not to be?

Preserve Lexington has appealed last week's decision by the Courthouse Area Design Review Board to permit developers to raze a stretch of buildings on West Main Street to make room for a luxury hotel and condominium high rise.

The appeal was filed with the Planning Commission, which has 90 days to hold a public hearing.

But Hank Graddy, attorney for Preserve Lexington, which opposes the demolition, said he expects the case will be heard “fairly quickly.”

Also Monday, Graddy asked the city's legal department to deny demolition permits on the buildings while the appeal process is underway. There is some ambiguity in the law on whether demolition might be allowed to go forward, he said.

In the appeal to the Planning Commission, Graddy said the only basis for Courthouse Area Review Board's staff report gave for granting a demolition permit was that to deny it would amount to “taking” the buildings.

However, the appeal states that CentrePointe developers and businessman Joe Rosenberg bought buildings on the old Woolworth block knowing their zoning designation, knowing they were in the Courthouse Area Design Review Zone and knowing they were generating income, though not a high level of income. The developers are planning a $250 million project that would use the entire block.

Denying a permit to demolish does not constitute “taking” the property, which requires a fairly high burden of proof, Graddy said.

Preserve Lexington also charges that CentrePointe LLC did not successfully rebut the preservation organization's arguments that new construction would “greatly exceed” the cost of rehabilitating the buildings.

Nor did the Courthouse Design Review Board require factual support for CentrePointe's figures on a number of points, including yearly maintenance of the building, rent paid and vacancy rates.

In fact, the Review Board “simply adopted wholesale the information submitted” by CentrePointe “with no analysis or consideration of the rebuttal information submitted by Preserve Lexington.”

Bill Sallee, manager of the city's planning services, said his staff will begin reviewing Preserve Lexington documents starting Tuesday and will make a report to the Planning Commission.