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Lawsuit Hopes to Halt Development of Beverly Hills Supper Club Site

 

A lawsuit was filed Thursday in an effort to stop the residential development planned on the site of the former Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate.

That famed establishment famously burned in 1977, killing 165 people.

Plaintiffs include survivors, family members of victims, first responders, and the organization Beverly Hills Supper Club, Respect the Dead, a news release said.

The suit was filed in Campbell Circuit Court.

The $65 million planned Memorial Point development by Ashley Development includes single-family homes, apartments, and a senior living community. It was first announced in May, and won approval from the county planning and zoning commission in July, and Southgate city council in August.

The suit argues that Ashley began clearing the site while negotiations about a memorial were ongoing, that the developer's attorneys misrepresented the location of the former Cabaret Room at the site, and that a survey has not been conducted to precisely locate the Cabaret Room site. It also alleges that the mayor of Southgate and city council members "secretly pre-negotiated the terms and conditions of a zone change."

“Memorial Point at the Beverly Hills Supper Club site is a corrupt bargain between the mayor, Southgate city council and Ashley Commercial Group that at every turn insulted the survivors, victim’s family members, first responders of the Beverly Hills Supper Club disaster. Shame on them," said attorney Steve Megerle, who is representing the plaintiffs. "My clients negotiated in good faith to honor their loved ones to simply put a memorial at the site to find peace, solace, and cloture. Now they have to go to court to force the developers to do the morally right thing.” 

“This is a $65 million dollar deal for Southgate and Ashley Commercial Group. It’s a lot of money to them. But to me, there is no dollar amount you can attach to losing my mother who died on that hill, and I will fight to honor her memory on that same hill," said Leslie Dischar Henry, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

In addition to Megerle, attorney Todd McMurtry is also representing the plaintiffs.

Ashley said that it does not typically comment on pending litigation but wanted 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 developer said that it had not been "afforded the professional courtesy and standard practice of receiving a copy of the lawsuit before it was filed. Instead, the attorneys quenched their insatiable thirst for publicity by running first to the media, which is how Ashley learned of the suit."

"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," Ashley said in a statement. "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 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."

The City of Southgate also released a statement:

"The City of Southgate learned of the filing of the lawsuit challenging the Council’s decision to re-zone the property commonly known as Memorial Point only late last night.  The City did not receive service of the lawsuit, nor even a courtesy copy of it, and only learned of the lawsuit itself through the press conference that the plaintiffs and their attorney unilaterally engineered.  

"The City was blindsided by the plaintiffs, who up to that point, had represented through their attorney that they were in agreement with the Developer, and they had accepted an offer of settlement that included provisions for construction and access to a fountain which they purport to want located in the vicinity where they believe the Cabaret room of the Beverly Hills Supper Club may have once stood.   

"Despite the abrupt and perplexing about face by the plaintiffs, 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."

-Staff report

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