Zoning Ordinance Debate is Pissing Off Locals

When the City Planning Commission convened on Tuesday, September 9 to review the newest draft of the proposed Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance and receive public comment, few could have anticipated the turnout. Perhaps, though, it’s no surprise. New Orleanians are a proud bunch, protective and community driven to preserve and protect their homes and neighborhoods.

With the CZO aimed to change the course of development by altering building and operating regulations across the city, the council chambers were abuzz with neighborhood residents aiming to speak their peace and have the Commission and CZO staff heed their advice.

FMIA Open Letter opposing holy cross development
In April, the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association issued a letter opposing high-rise development in the Holy Cross neighborhood in the Lower Ninth Ward.

 

“The sound of a brass band at 30ft is the same as a gasoline lawn mower running,” said Frank Peterson in opposition to the CZO’s proposed reduction of a 100ft setback requirement for artist communities to 30ft. “I can sleep with the sounds of traffic on S. Tonti street, but I can’t sleep with a gasoline lawn mower outside of my window.”

Mr. Peterson was not alone in his critique of the document, whose length exceeds 500 pages. Residents of Faubourg Marigny were also out in force to protest the changing of an ordinance regarding building height limits in their neighborhood.

“We do not want to live in the shadow of tall buildings,” said Kim Bellinger, retired U.S. Merchant Marine and longtime Marigny resident, seeking to demonstrate the misalignment between the Ordinance and the needs of those it serves.

“It holds our needs to be secondary to the businesses that serve visitors,” said Diane Lease, championing the establishment of historic preservation and restoration initiatives on Elysian Fields instead of forcing high rise developments into the 19th century built neighborhood, which the proposed zoning ordinances are designed to encourage.

Reading through the CZO’s complicated language, residents from throughout the city projected the plan into the future and imagined the implications. Many took issue with an ordinance allowing unamplified music in restaurants, which they saw as a gateway to misconduct, allowing those restaurants to turn into nightclubs that would only disturb the neighborhood atmosphere and quality of life. Neighbors know best, and the public made frequent comment on the disconnect between their way of life and the document which seeks to order it.

Capturing the mood of the room, WWOZ GM David Friedman implored the Commission to increase the time for public review of and comment on the CZO. He indicated that it would have “unintended consequences on cultural continuity” unless the committee operated with full knowledge of public opinion.

This was the third public hearing in two months concerning the CZO, and the CPC has since voted to recommend the ordinance for adoption by City Council. The council plans to come to a decision before the end of October.

The document is available online at the CPC website, and there is one more public hearing scheduled for September 30th in the City Hall Council Chambers. Those interested may also submit written comment to the committee by filling out this form.

About Mark

Mark is a native New Orleanian and graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory. A poet and essayist, Mark believes in language, soccer, and charbroiled everything. Catch him talking about it between sets at Tipitinas or in line for the Barrel Proof restroom.

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