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'We ought to let them have a city' | Bill could allow areas of Louisville to become individual cities

House Bill 314 would only apply to Jefferson County and would allow local areas in the metro to vote to create a new city or join an existing one.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky lawmakers have advanced a bill that could allow places like Okolona and Fern Creek to become their own cities instead of unincorporated areas of Louisville Metro.

House Bill 314 would only apply to Jefferson County and would allow local areas in the metro to vote to create a new city or join an existing one.

In order to qualify as a new city, an area would need to have at least 6,000 people and 75% of eligible voters in the area trying to join or create a new city would need to sign a petition to show their intent.

In other counties, only 66% of voters need to approve annexations and incorporations.

"If 75% of the people want a city because they are not getting the services that they are already taxed for, and they'll continue to be taxed for, then we ought to let them have a city," Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, said. 

Those in favor of HB 314 said passing it would ensure everyone in Jefferson County gets equal access to the services they pay for. 

"We've had two decades to see how the merger has evolved," Douglass Hills Mayor Bonnie Jung said. "It's been very beneficial in many ways, but unfortunately disappointing for many residents in the unincorporated Jefferson County area. Many feel that they are ignored."

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Those opposed to the bill said while they agree there are improvements that could be made to the current system, passing this would lead to the undoing of the merged government.

Louisville Metro Council President David James said he feels that would leave all Jefferson County residents with worse services than they're getting now. 

"What that was like before, for example in policing, in areas near Bardstown Road and the Watterson Expressway, there would be an accident and the police literally would argue about is that going to be on the county or is that going to be on the city," James said. "The citizen who pays taxes just wants the police to show up, it doesn't matter which one."

HB 314 advanced out of a House committee Wednesday. It now heads to the full House for consideration.

If approved, it'll need to be voted on by the Senate before it could go to the governor's desk.

Lawmakers proposed a similar bill last year but, unlike that bill, this legislation would not reduce mayoral term limits.

Contact reporter Rachel Droze at rdroze@whas11.com. Follow her on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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