Neighbors First for Bywater – Board Meeting – June 20, 2018
Meeting called to order at 7:08PM
Present: Julie Jones, John Andrews, Brian Luckett, Anthony Eschmann, Mark Gonzales, Michael Owings, Susan Korec, Tyler Harwood, Nancy Thacker
Allen Johnson, president of Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association, spoke to the board about his eagerness to support us and Bywater neighbors in opposing the conditional use extension for the “Stateside” hotel development (Chartres @ Mazant). The developers sidestepped city council and apparently got a two year extension from Bob Rivers of the CPC. It was agreed that Mr. Rivers “overstepped his bounds” and it seems Councilmember Palmer is not pleased. He encouraged us to still go to the city council meeting, as we had planned, to express our feelings on these developments.
Mr. Johnson then spoke to us regarding Zoning Docket 071/18, which proposes to allow a conditional use for a Hampton Inn hotel at 501 Elysian Fields Ave. The FMIA is asking the CPC to deny the developers the conditional use request until they come up with a design that is appropriate for a historic district. The FMIA supports the development of a hotel at this site if it is a better fit for the neighborhood. The developer told the FMIA at one of their meetings that he would hire a design consultant to help the architect address these issues and never did. It was noted that Sean Cummings, then owner of the property, prohibited presentations by the developer for a period of time. The latest version of the plans shows them including insignificant (i.e. non-historic) warehouses instead of building something that could set a good precedent for other development in the area. If the hotel is allowed as it is currently designed it could be a spur for bad architecture on both sides of Elysian Fields. The developers have agreed to hire Gene Czick, an architect and authority on preservation, to help with design plans. The FMIA would like our support when the time comes, and the board unanimously agreed we should offer our support however we can. Mr. Johnson then left the meeting.
The conversation then returned to the “Stateside” hotel development, which is item #6 on the agenda for the City Council meeting June 21st. It was questioned whether Mr. Rivers had the authority to extend the conditional use as he did. One of the board members had spoken to a land-use attorney who noted that there was no stop-work order to prevent the developers from their work. They could have been building this whole time XXXX. In addition, the litigation was against the city, not against the developers. Michael Owings consulted a copy of the CZO and read Article 4, section 126.96.36.199 to the group:
- Unless otherwise prohibited, the Executive Director of the City Planning Commission may extend the time for expiration of a planned development approval for a period not to exceed one (1) year upon a showing of good cause by the applicant. A request for extension shall be made in writing within the original period of validity. An extension for a period in excess of one (1) year may be granted only by the City Council in accordance with Paragraph b below.
- The holder of a planned development may petition the City Council for a longer extension of time. A request for extension shall be made in writing within the original period of validity. The City Council shall hold a public hearing and decide whether to extend the time period. Notice for the public hearing is required in accordance with Section 3.3. The applicant and the owner of record of the property shall be notified of a public hearing to be conducted by the City Council. Following the public hearing, the City Council shall render its decision whether to terminate or extend the approval, taking into account hardship to the applicant or property owner, changes in surrounding circumstances that have occurred since the original approval, and the likelihood that substantial construction will occur during any period of extension.
It was suggested that one of us should read the rule at the council meeting and argue that proper procedure was not followed for an extension that should not have been granted in the first place. John Andrews plans to speak about the conditional use process, and how this project was not ever an appropriate candidate. Julie was encouraged to discuss what is appropriate for HMC-2 zoning. Brian also plans to attend. It was suggested that someone could mention that Jason Williams was the only member of the old city council with the courage to speak out against the project and to thank him. He said at the time, and we agreed, that the project would be great if it were in a better location, not in a quiet corner of a historic residential neighborhood. A similarity to the “Sun Yard”, which the council ultimately did not approve, may also be worth mentioning.
The board then discussed the next general meeting, which would fall on the evening of July 4th. We agreed it was not an ideal time. John Andrews motioned we cancel it, and the entirety of the board was in favor. The next board meeting is July 18, and Susan offered to host it.
The last general meeting was briefly recapped, and it was noted that it was a success and may be worth repeating in the fall when attendance may be better.
Brian Luckett told us about a group he joined that met with a colonel from the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the Section 106 process for a series of projects in New Orleans including wharves and the possible cruise ship terminal.
“Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended (NHPA), requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on Historic Properties and afford the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation a reasonable opportunity to comment on such undertakings.”
The group was there to express the need for public input and came away a bit discouraged. It is unclear whether the buildings for the cruise ship terminal would trigger the Section 106 process. Hounding the Corps will most likely not be effective. The State Historical Department would be good to contact.
Brian then gave us the good news that our application for the city’s tricentennial grant was approved! We have $1000 to throw a party, and we have to do it this year. Mark had previously recruited volunteers for a subcommittee and will get them together soon to discuss possibilities. We all like the idea of it being at Clouet Gardens, incorporating stories from long time residents, bananas, and possible participation from the neighboring Tigermen Den.
Meeting adjourned at 8:20PM.
Tyler Harwood, co-secretary