SOUTHGATE, Ky. (FOX19) - A $65 million mixed-used development on the site of the former Beverly Hills Supper Club moved forward Tuesday after a meeting of the Campbell County Planning and Zoning Commission.
The required zone change and conditional use permit passed unanimously. The development plan is scheduled to go before Southgate City Council for final approval Aug. 5.
Called Memorial Point, the 80-acre development will feature apartments, homes and a memorial honoring the victims of the 1977 fire.
It’s a joint venture of Ashley Development Group and Vision Realty.
Plans include 100 to 200 apartments, 89 homes starting in the upper $300,000s and a for-profit 79-unit assisted living facility.
The fire on Memorial Day 1977 killed 165 people and injured more than 200.
Some of those who attended the three-hour meeting called the project a “win-win.” Others had issue with how the development will honor those who died.
Darla McCollister, a survivor, explained she was getting married with the club as a backdrop when it caught fire.
One of McCollister’s guests numbered among the victims.
“I had to get up the next morning and call everybody on my guest list and had to ask whoever answered the phone if my guest was alive,” McCollister said.
Most of the guests were lost in the Cabaret Room. McCollister says the developer previously promised the footprint of the room would be made into a memorial.
A memorial at the bottom of the hill is slated to include the names of the victims, a list of local first responder units that responded to the fire, a list of the federal and state fire safety regulations implemented afterward, and maps of the site in 1977.
A memorial park honoring the victims is also proposed for an area that will be developed as part of the residential project at the top of the hill.
Debate at the meeting focused on whether the memorial park, which the developers said will be in the care of an HOA, will be open to the public.
“We want it opened to the public,” Tom McConaughy, co-author of ‘The Beverly Hills Supper Club,‘ said. “We’d like a fountain in a park-like setting, and we want it accessible to the survivors and the family members.”
Respect the Dead, a group advocating for the park to be public, showed up to the meeting wearing t-shirts bearing the names of those who perished in the fire. The group said it would like a preservationist or coroner on the site before digging begins.
“We believe there’s still remains up there, ashes, there were some people who were recovered who were not whole,” said McConaughy.
McCollister says one option floated by the developers, that people could call ahead to visit the memorial park, is a non-starter.
“Can you imagine what that’s like, to say, I have to call somebody’s office to go visit my mother’s grave? It makes no sense,” she said
McCollister adds she is not opposed to the site being developed, she just wants that one particular area preserved for public access.
Bill Kreutzjans of Ashley Builders Group released a statement Tuesday evening in response to concerns:
“We fully understand and embrace the need for a memorial that ensures that the people who were lost in the fire will never be forgotten. We will be working with a group of survivors and family members of victims as well as with Southgate city officials on a memorial planning committee. We have selected an appropriate and fitting spot for a memorial planned for the site that will be located along US 27. Through our development agreement with the city, we are also planning to install a memorial marker or placard depicting a map of the Beverly Hills Supper Club that will be located within a park that is planned in the development.
Other residents who attended the zoning meeting expressed concerns about increased traffic in the area. The developer said they are waiting on the results of a traffic study.
The members of Respect the Dead say they plan to keep fighting for the plans for the memorial to be changed.