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City of Southgate, Ashley Builders respond to lawsuit filed to stop development at Beverly Hills site

Staff report

The City of Southgate and Ashley Builders Group responded to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Campbell Circuit Court to stop the development known as Memorial Point at the site of the Beverly Hills Supper Club.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the nonprofit organization Beverly Hills Supper Club, Respect the Dead, LLC., Leslie Dischar Henry, Robin Thornhill and Tracy Beckelhymer. Their attorneys are Steve Megerle and Todd McMurtry.

The group has asked the court to rescind the zone change developers got from Southgate. They are suing a long list of defendants including the Campbell County and Municipal Planning and Zoning Commission and its members and the City of Southgate and its mayor and council members, in their official and personal capacities, Ashley Commercial Group in Edgewood and Twin Towers nonprofit corporation in Cincinnati, which has owned the site since 2001.

Conceptual drawing of part of the development

Respect the Dead is a nonprofit organized “for the benefit and support of victims, family members of victims, first responders, fire fighters, and other stakeholders with an interest in the preservation of the memory of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire and disaster.”

The fire at the club on May 28, 1977, killed 165 people.

The lawsuit says Ashley Development Group does not exist, questions procedural issues throughout the zoning process, says the county’s 2008 comprehensive plan was never adopted, that public notice was defective, that the city’s decisions were arbitrary and capricious, and that the site itself is a “burial ground” under state law.

The City issued a statement saying it did not receive service — or a “courtesy copy of it” — and was blindsided by the lawsuit.

The City stated:

“The City remains confident that it will prevail in this litigation. As was seen at the public hearings conducted by the Campbell County Municipal Planning and Zoning Commission and the Southgate City Council, the zone change that was ultimately approved by the City Council is overwhelmingly supported by the taxpayers of the City of Southgate, as well as the past and present first responders who have selflessly served and protected this City’s citizens and guests. 

“At both hearings, the persons expressing opposition to the development were scattered and few, and consisted mostly of persons residing outside of the community of Southgate. At the hearing before the City Council these persons and their attorney, stated that they did not oppose the zone change or even the development, for that matter. Similarly, this lawsuit does not present any substantive, legal reasons under Kentucky law to support reversal of the City Council’s zone change decision, and the City has every reason to believe that this lawsuit will ultimately be dismissed.”

Ashley Builders Group also felt compelled to speak out “to correct the misinformation that is part of a lawsuit that has been filed challenging the rezoning of our planned Memorial Point mixed-use development in Southgate and due to the unprofessional behavior of the lawyers for the plaintiffs who filed the suit.”

The Ashley statement said:

“It is also important to point out that the plaintiffs’ attorneys represent some but far from all of those impacted by the 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire. In fact, the recognized survivors’ group supports Ashley’s plans for the site and has been involved in the planning and proposed placement of two memorials on the site.

“Ashley’s plans and the rezoning of the property are also supported by:

Southgate City Council
Campbell County Planning & Zoning Commission
The current chief and membership of the Southgate Volunteer Fire Department
Two former Southgate mayors
Two former Southgate fire chiefs
Dozens of Southgate residents
And most importantly, survivors, loved ones and friends of victims of the fire.

“Ashley has been mindful of the sensitivity of this property throughout this entire process and sought and received thoughtful input from members of the community that were impacted by the fire as plans for the memorials were prepared.

“The memorials appropriately honor the victims, acknowledges the history of the property and will be properly accessible to the public. The company also offered to include construction and access to a fountain that the plaintiffs purport they want in the vicinity of where they believe the Cabaret room of the Beverly Hills Supper Club once stood.

“Ashley negotiated with plaintiffs’ attorneys in good faith and agreed to many of their requests. This lawsuit only further delays the placement of an appropriate, long-overdue public memorial that will hopefully bring a sense of closure to all of those who have been impacted by the tragedy of the fire.

The lawyers have filed a baseless lawsuit that has no factual or legal support or merit. We are confident we will prevail.”

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