March 7, 2018 General Meeting – Sun Yard Forum

7 March 2018

The meeting was called to order by president Jones.  Introduction to moderator Stephen Haedicke and representatives of:

Sun Yard (SY): Giuliano Pignataro, owner, and  Jason Richards, architect

Neighbors: Megan Kiefer and Elizabeth Macey

The following notes were composed as accurately as possible by Anthony Eshman as the meeting ran, but should be considered paraphrased. An audio recording of the entire meeting can be accessed here: https://nfbywater.org/2018/03/09/sun-yard-forum/

Giuliano of SY made opening statements expressing his gratitude for being allowed to meet with the neighbors and regret that they had gotten off on the wrong foot.  He went on to describe the plans for a small hotel and restaurant. It has 5 existing structures and 4 new ones will be constructed in addition to a swimming pool.

The hotel will have 37 rooms with a maximum capacity of 90 guests.  There will be an enclosed bar which will serve drinks for the restaurant and outdoors.

Megan Kiefer then spoke representing the neighbors who are opposed to this project.  She stated that there was no clearly delineated position but that the neighbors cohesion formed organically.  

The moderator asked SY if they had made any changes to the original plans after input from the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) and the neighbors. SY’s architect Mr. Richards replied that they had and received approval of them from the ARC.  Other changes were to the proposed parking arrangements as they were not allowed to use a lot across St. Claude Ave. Parking across St. Claude may still happen but that is not determined at this time. They have also moved the trash pickup and employee break room sites so as not to be so closed to the residences bordering the property.  

The moderator asked Elizabeth Macey to list some of her major concerns.

Elizabeth Macey listed them  as: parking, noise pollution, and the outdoor stage.  

Megan Kiefer then pointed out that the developers need a zoning change and a conditional use permit to do what they are proposing.  She went on to say that the neighborhood is being destroyed to make way for more tourists at the expense of the tax-paying residents.  She asked “If this has to happen what can make it less onerous?”

Have you considered what worse could happen to this space suggested the moderator.

Megan K: She wondered if it is this or empty lots.

The moderator then asked SY how they see this as a benefit for the neighborhood.

Mr. Pignataro responded that they felt it was good, low density, low height, and a good anchor for Bywater as one enters on St. Claude.  He did not explain what that means. It will also provide 30 full time jobs with fair wages according to his statement.

Moderator: How would you address E’s concerns?

Mr. Pignataro: A parking lot with 12 spaces, valet parking, and that he was talking to a garage owner in the 1300 block of St. Ferdinand St. about using it as a parking lot.

Mr. Richards added that noise abatement is not unique to this project and there are many ways to assure noise issues can be monitored as part of a proviso.  He also felt that having staff on duty 24 hours would provide someone to call if the noise levels were too high.

Mod: asked M and E if they had a response to this. They responded that moving the bar closer to St Claude and pointed out that the parking spaces on St. C were already used full time.

Mr. Richards responded that the bar is supportive of the pool, hotel and restaurant; it will close at 8PM and just anyone can’t walk into it.

Mod: Can non guests use the bar?

Mr. Pignataro: We envision it being available to others

Megan K: that is not ancillary

Mod: when does the pool close, are you trying to change that?

Mr. Pignataro: Pool would be open later, bar service would stop at 8PM

Megan K: Weekends and all?

Mr. Pignataro: all week

Mod: Would employees of Sun Yard technically be employees of Mr. Pigantaro’s company in Philidelphia? What company is that?

Mr. Pignataro: For marketing purposes it is called Spruce Street Commons.

Mod: The  addition of the new buildings will impact drainage on the property.  How do you plan to make certain that this does not lead to flooding?

Mr. Richards: The city requires that we do not shed onto another space.  Other requirements will be followed.

Elizabeth M: Currently we never flood.

Mod: Are you going to keep the trees or not?

Mr. Pignataro: Everything there will stay and we plan to plant more.  We trimmed the canopy and cleared away brush.

Mod: How will valet parking be handled?

Mr. Pignataro: It is not flushed out.  We have spoken to some companies but there is no definite answer at this time.

Megan K: As neighbors we want to know.  What about Feliciana and St. C? That takes another lot out of commerce.

Mr. Pignataro: We are trying to do it responsibly by talking to the neighbors and the BNA.  Only half of the lot on Feliciana will be used for parking, the other half is available for development.

Mod: Why is there so much hostility towards this project?

Megan K: It is a hotel marketing us as a commodity.

Mod: 40% of the N O economy is tourism.

Elizabeth M: Look at the French Quarter.  Locals can’t enjoy it; it is overrun by tourists.  It is insanely expensive. It is time to take care of tax paying citizens rather than pushing them out due to increasing property values and taxes.

Mod: Have you met with Nadine Ramsey and other city elected officials?

Mr. Pignataro: We met with Ms. Ramsey once before the election.

Mod: Are you buying any other properties?

Mr. Pignataro: Not me.

QUESTIONS FROM CARDS FROM THE AUDIENCE

Mod: How many pilings will you have to drive into the ground?

Mr. Richards: Can’t answer that yet.  We are not that far along. We want to save the trees so we will not use many.

Mod: There was talk of environmental protections such as composting, what plans do you have to make less of an environmental impact?

Mr. Pignataro: Composting and solar energy.

Mod:  How many people will be in the pool area?

Mr. Pignataro: Fire Marshall regulates that.  We haven’t asked yet. Number of people limited by size of egress.

Mod:  How many people will the restaurant accommodate?

Mr. Pignataro: 70 including the bar.

QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE

How do you propose to have valet parking on St. Ferdinand St. about 5 blocks away and across the railroad tracks?

Mr. Pignataro: That is envisioned as long term parking for guests.  That will not be part of valet parking.

How many people will the hotel accommodate?

Mr. Pignataro: Up to 90 people.

Parking on site?

Mr. Pignataro: There is one ADA parking place.

The CPC requested 3.

Mr. Pignataro: Three were requested, one is required.

What is a fair wage?

Mr. Pignataro: I don’t know.

What are your noise abatement plans?

Mr. Richards: We don’t know yet.  We commit to a transparent process with the neighbors.  There will be speakers around the pool.

There is a similar project on Tulane Ave. The neighbors complain about a lot of noise coming from there. What will you do about that?

Mr. Pignataro: time management

Why do you have to have amplified sound?  Why not move pumping station?

Mr. Pignataro/Mr. Richards: Move pumping station OK.  If we have our own amp system we can control it better than allowing bands to bring their own.

Are you willing to put agreements in writing so that they will be enforceable?  What if you sell the property?

Mr. Pignataro/Mr. Richards   The provisos will be enforceable.  Zoning changes stay with the property but if it is sold a new owner must apply for a conditional use for whatever is proposed.  The provisos stay with the property also.

Information about special event is conflicting.  How many weddings will there be and what about the sound stage?

Mr. Pignataro: There was never a sound stage and there will  not be one. I never said how many weddings there would be. The underwriting of this project is for the hotel, not income from events.

You aren’t willing to commit to a specific number of events?

Mr. Pignataro: I don’t mean to be flippant but I don’t know.

Where can we find plans for this on line?

Mr. Richards: One stop at NOLA.GOV 3000 St. Claude

Would you move the pool closer to St. Claude?

Mr. Richards: We are not committed to that.

You will need special events permits.  They are limited to 12 a year.

Mr. Richards: Weddings are not special events.

What are your priorities?

Mr. Pignataro: 65% occupancy per year.  That is the average for the Southern US.

Didn’t you say that you will work with the neighbors on sound abatement. The Fire Marshall allows 1 person per 7 sq ft.Walls and trees don’t work.

Mr. Richards: We feel the CPC will engage in this process.  The size of the egress determines the amount of people allowed.  When you take this into consideration we will not get to 1,000 people.

There is no current model for this in Bywater but I’m sure the average occupancy rate for N O is higher than 65%.

What do you say to residents if this project fails? We would be stuck with this big commercial space.

Mr. Pignataro: We don’t plan on failing.  In any case a new owner would need to get a conditional use.

We are terrified if it succeeds and terrified if it fails.

Are you aware that 7 restaurants have closed recently within a mile of your location? You have never run a restaurant.

Mr. Pignataro: No.  We have a consultant.

Isn’t she from Austin. ?  In a city like N O you couldn’t find someone to be a consultant?  You said you were providing local jobs.

All were thanked for participating.

A PDF of these notes can be downloaded here.

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