Upcoming general meeting to be cancelled due to Mardi Gras Madness

The board has decided to cancel the upcoming (February 7) general meeting because of parades (Nix) and the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball which will be attended by several of the people we hoped would join us in a forum we are planning.

The next general meeting (March 7) will definitely be held. It will involve the very contentious question of the development of the 3000 block of St. Claude (primarily riverside although there is a spillover as well) as a hotel, restaurant, event space with an outdoor pool and a parking lot across St. Claude. The owners of the property are requesting a zoning change to extend the commercial zoning that fronts on St. Claude (river side) to the back of the lots (almost reaching N. Rampart, a residential area) and a conditional use to make what is allowed on St. Claude–a 10,000 sq ft enclosed commercial space–into a 20,000 sq ft enclosed commercial space. The parking lot will need a waiver of some kind as well. We gather that the near neighbors are not happy about these changes, which may well affect their quality of life, but we would like to hear from the community in general.

Although the City Planning Commission will almost certainly make its recommendation in early February, the issue will still have to go to the City Council for the final decision. We plan to host a forum to get input from the neighborhood in general and especially the near neighbors to see how this property can best work for Bywater.   We would like the forum to be attended by all interested parties in the neighborhood–residents, near neighbors and the proposed developers as well–and also hope to have people from the CPC, the Historic District Landmark Commission (which has twice deferred a decision on the design of the property) and the Office of Safety and Permits.

We will send a reminder about and update on this meeting closer to the date.

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Riverfront Alliance hosted Councilmember Elect Cyndi Nguyen

As a member of the Riverfront Alliance, NFB joined in hosting Councilmember Elect Cyndi Nguyen from neighboring District D. Ms. Nguyen hopes to work across district lines on issues (like STRs) that affect the whole city.

The Riverfront Alliance of neighborhood organizations announced: We’re starting our 11th year in 2018!  Founded in 2007, The Riverfront Alliance is a coalition of downtown neighborhood organizations that meet monthly at the historic Pitot House, thanks to our hosts, the Louisiana Landmarks Society. It includes neighborhood leadership from French Quarter, Algiers Point, Marigny, Bywater, and Holy Cross.  It’s a great example of how our neighborhoods – the backbone of New Orleans – have much in common, including a desire for good city planning, historic preservation and quality of life issues.  This week we met with incoming District E Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen, included in this picture.

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NFB Board Meeting January 17,2018

NFB Board Meeting January 17, 2018

Present: John Andrews, Tyler Harwood, Brian Luckett, Julie Jones, Steven Jacob, Stephen Haedicke, Nancy Thacker, Anthony Eschmann, Mark Gonzalez, Michael Owings.

Meeting was called to order 7:15 PM and was held at Rhonda’s house, with Carlos graciously hosting.

Sun Yard Development: February 6th is the scheduled CPC (City Planning Commission)meeting, letters are due 8 days prior to that. The HDLC (Historic District Landmark Commission)’s decision was deferred yesterday, as well as in December as there was not enough information on the “camel back” aspect of the project.

On the 15th board members attended a walk through of the project and shared the following:

Main points of concern/opposition: Hotel instead of residences, no neighbors. Noise levels from the events, such as weddings and celebrations in the courtyard and pool area. No limit on how many events there can be, or how long parties can last. Concern of inviting a “New Country Club” dynamic. Plans to rehab a row of shacks along the back residential side to make them structurally sound and to use them as a bar for the pool.. They explained that non-guests would have access to the pool and bar by passing through the hotel reception lobby at 3020 St. Claude and paying a fee.

Reviewed the process to date of how the land use from residential to commercial happened and what exactly has been voted on or approved. According to Paul Cramer at City Planning the Future Land Use Map of the Master Plan has been amended to include commercial designations in the entirety of the lots, whereas previously the backs of the lots were designated residential and the fronts were designated commercial. The owners are now requesting a zoning change to make the back of the lots conform with the Master Plan FLUM.

Conditional use needed for the hotel as they are adding additional 8 thousand sq ft. The total square footage of the current buildings is approximately 12 square feet thousand now. The proposed 20,000 sq ft of commercial space is twice the permitted use and requires a conditional use. Additionally, the surface lot proposed for the corner of Felicity and St. Claude would require a conditional use.

Provisos attached to the conditional use may be the only option at this point to protect near neighbors from noise, overcrowding, parking issues and congestion.

The near neighbor group is well organized, and looking into the legality of the zoning changes.  

If the changes doesn’t go through, the property could still be used as a series of full-time STRs on St. Claude, since the St. Claude frontage is already zoned commercial.

Neighborhood Input: Discussion shifted to improving the process of canvassing neighbors and members of NFB on these issues. Hosting a moderated forum for such large and complicated (both in time line and city reg’s) project at the Sun Yard was approved, and tentative structure on moving forward with same discussed. While BNA seems to approve of this project, the number and tone of comments on the neighborhood blog indicated something different.

A motion to send a letter requesting a  deferral to the CPC recommendation was made and passed unanimously. The next NFB General Meeting falls a day after the CPC meets. We would like to take advantage of this meeting to allow both the opposition and the developers to present their points of view in a moderated forum. This would allow for the Sun Yard opposition group to present more clearly how the area wants to see plans develop. Brian will write letter to CPC, Julie will contact developer and the opposition with this request.

Info was shared about a meeting arranged by near neighbors at Spellcaster Lodge.

Also sending out surveys to membership via email will be explored.

NSA Work Force Housing: Support for workforce housing was voted on with unanimous support. This would work very well in this neighborhood and would be most welcomed.

Councilperson Committee: Ongoing work on how to, again, gather information from the neighborhood to share with our elected council person, as well as how to communicate with her to obtain her goals and objectives was discussed. Web surveys seem to the be most efficient and user friendly way to get input from Bywater residents. She does not come into office until May, so we still have some time.

Many thanks to Tyler for all of his work on the new website – a true upgrade. A tweak or two will get us current with density references.

It was agreed to send out the recent photo of the Riverfront Alliance as ongoing news of NFB and its efforts to stay connected and effective in the community.

Next general meeting is the planned moderated forum, with food being provided by a new restaurant in the area. As this meeting may be larger than regular meetings due to the Sun Yard interest, an offer to financially supplement the provisions was made by Mark.

Meeting ended at 8:15 PM.

Submitted by Nancy Thacker, co-secretary

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NFB General Meeting Minutes – January 3, 2018

NFB General Meeting Minutes – January 3, 2018

Meeting started at 7:11. There was pizza (thanks Stephen Haedicke!), and a great turnout. Almost ran out of chairs!

Mark Gonzalez told the group about an art show at the New Orleans Art Center (3330 St Claude Ave.) called “The Deadly Ambiguity of Guns”, opening January 13th and running through February 4th. Artists are submitting work exploring the theme, which focuses on the multiplicity of factors in the gun debate. The public is invited to vote on their favorite pieces at the opening party January 13th, 6PM.

Julie then introduced Joseph A. Jaeger Jr., CEO of The MCC Group, along with Peter Amondt and Jeff Feilden. Their real estate and development company bought the Holy Angels Congregation Center and Convent on St. Claude, and also plans to develop the former Naval Support Activity site on Poland Avenue.

Mr. Jaeger said the nuns from Holy Angels have moved across the lake. The original plan for the site was to make the buildings into apartments, but after walking around the site one day he felt it was not a good fit after all, and thinks an assisted living / elderly care facility would be a better fit. “The property deserves more than just plain apartments”, he said. They do not want to lease to a random company, and want to maintain involvement in the project.

The MCC Group signed a 99-year lease for the former Naval Support Activity site (NSA) around a year ago. Since then they have been going back and forth with the City and Port as they try and make a plan. The group wants to use the buildings for “workforce housing” and neighborhood friendly commercial. They have spoken with grocery stores and Hubig’s pies, among others, regarding the potential for the commercial spaces. The City would retain a portion of one of the buildings for their use, probably for records storage, though other purposes have been discussed.

Mr. Jaeger told the group that some time after the lease was signed (and significant effort to draft plans for the site made) the City emailed an amendment for them to sign that would return parts of the property to the City, presumably for use by the Port. As their lease is a legally binding document, they opted not to sign the amendment. Neither the Port or the City will tell them why they want the amendment, or what their plan is, so the group is unable to move forward with making any plans for the site. If a use is planned by the City or Port that would not be appropriate alongside residential units they cannot proceed. One such use (the elephant in the room) is the potential cruise ship terminal, of which very little is still known (scratch “about”). It’s safe to assume the Port wants to use part of the property for delivery trucks and parking for that project, which would not be good for the development. The group plans to meet with HUD representatives re funding in Dallas later this month, and it seems they would disapprove as well. Mr Jaeger said he knows the Port wants to put the cruise ship terminal there, but wonders if they have the money to do it. Brian Luckett suggested we keep an eye on the State Budget, which will be released later this month, to see if funds are allocated for it. In prior budgets, it has been listed as “very low priority.” Was it Brian who said this?

Mr. Jaeger said the process on the NSA project has been very slow. It took four and a half years just to get the lease! And now with the City and the Port not saying what they plan on doing, nothing can get done. Letters go unanswered. He said he knows the City or Port wants to access the dock via the leased property, which is problematic, but they want to cooperate. The 18 month due diligence period comes to an end in May, and the group hopes they can make some progress by then, but with the changes in City administration they anticipate it will be difficult. In the past they worked with Capital Projects, Cedric Grant, and recently Ryan Bernie, whose term is coming to an end very soon. State officials have not been helpful either. Mr. Jaeger pointed out that little is known about the cruise ship terminal plan, so it’s hard to know how to proceed. Would it be a “home port” or “visiting port”? What kind of boats would be there? There is a big difference between a riverboat and a cruise ship. He said the Viking River Cruise company may be looking for a dock. Larger cruise ships would mean thousands of people, cars, and lots of trucks. Mr. Jaeger shows genuine concern for any impact any of these developments would have on the neighborhood, and says they fully plan on continuing to keep us up to date and involved.

In fact he said, “We will not make a deal without some representation from the neighborhood sitting at the table.”

A request was made for the improvements to the security at the NSA site to protect it from vandalism, squatters, and related issues nearby residents have been concerned about. The group said they are aware of the problems and trying. They were thanked for their time.

Meeting ended at 8:09PM.

Respectfully submitted by Tyler Harwood, co-secretary

To download a PDF of these minutes Click here!
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Neighbors First For Bywater Board Meeting Minutes 12/13/17

Neighbors First For Bywater Board Meeting 12/13/17

Present: Julie Jones, Tyler Harwood, Steve Jacob, John Andrews, Nancy Thacker, Mark Gonzales, Brian Luckett, Anthony Eschmann

Called to order 7:07 PM

1. Saxony Condo Development. Following the presentation by the developer at the general meeting last week, it is clear that these units with pool will be marketed to include STRs as a use for these condos. It was noted that our responsibility is with current neighbors, and it was agreed to work on a letter to the developer that would express gratitude for not seeking variances as well as the specific concerns we, as residents, would like to see addressed. It would also strongly encourage this developer to stand by statements that indicated an interest in selling to actual residents as opposed to vacation homes and STRs. Some detail on how STRs and an all commercial 75 unit condo building would harm the neighborhood would be included. Motion made for letter to be written by John and Mark, seconded and carried unanimously.

2. Sun Yard (formerly know as the truck farm). NPP was held this past week at Bywater Bakery, two members attended and shared the following information. The space was small for all who were there, and it was difficult to see plans. There was some concern about the timing of this NPP during a Saints game meant that many could not attend, thereby further limiting neighborhood input. However, there was still a crowd, and none of those who spoke appeared to favor the project. Attendees were very energized to ascertain some clarity on plans, as little was divulged. The discussion of development now includes a restaurant at Montegut and St. Claude. The concept A boutique hotel remains, with a parking lot across St. Claude, which may require a change in zoning from residential to commercial. Some confusion around if the Master Plan had been applied to for a change already – if this was a Map Change? They are asking for a conditional use to accommodate a hotel that is larger than what is allowed in the master plan (i.e. 10,000 sq. ft) as well as a change in zoning on the back area of the lots which are currently residential and would, per their request, become commercial.

It was agreed that we would work with the near neighbors who are staying current and engaged. Some of these near neighbors shared their concerns at the general meeting, and feel the project WILL have a negative impact on their quality of life. The new owner states she has experience in local/ artisanal food and yet has not contacted any local markets, farmers, cheese makers, etc. The owners apparently do not have any experience with these kinds of businesses. If the venture fails the zoning changes would remain, which is extremely problematic. The architectural review committee of the hdlc hearing is Dec 19th.

3. City Grant for Tricentennial Celebration was discussed, and ideas are to be shared with the other neighborhood groups to see if we can coordinate. One idea is to host an event documenting the cultural history of Bywater. Time honored members of the community could be interviewed in a fun public forum setting, and it could also be filmed. Both Tyler and Steve J agreed to follow up.

4. Parleaux and neighbor concerns re: possible violations for parking (humu?), food trucks & licensing. Brian is following up.

5. Communication with new City Council Representative, Ms. Palmer. A survey to our members, such as the one used for opinions on STRs, was discussed and agreed upon. This real time information of what the people of Bywater want and are concerned about would be helpful in listing our top concerns for our representatives, and also insure we adequately address issues most important to our members. When Ms. Palmer is curious to know about a specific issue that is generated on her end on the Council, she could ask to reach out to our shared constituency for input. Rhonda and Brian have been and will continue to work on this. Tyler will contact Palmer’s office to keep them informed.

6. Speakers for next meeting in january discussed – with particular interest in the Holy Angels and NSA. Brian will follow up. Food: Stephen H? with Tyler as back up.

Submitted by Nancy Thacker and Tyler Harwood, co-secretaries

To download a PDF of these minutes Click here!
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Neighbors First For Bywater General Meeting Minutes 12/6/17

Neighbors First For Bywater General Meeting 12/6/17

Julie Jones called the meeting to order at 7:13

Valarie Bolton from the Neighborhood Engagement Office brought #ReadyYearRound 2018 calendars for all attendees. These calendars, produced by the City of New Orleans’ emergency preparedness campaign, have a lot of useful and timely information for each month, and are available through that office. (ready.nola.gov)

She also shared some applications for a city wide grant being offered to the different neighborhoods for individualized tricentennial celebrations specific to your area. The grants are for $1,000.00 each, and the proposed use should be inclusive as well as accessible to those in your neighborhood. More information can be found on the Neighborhood Management Office website (nola.gov/neighborhood-engagement/). The deadline to apply is January 8th.

Thanks Ms. Valarie!

Julie then reminded attendees about the NPP meeting being held tomorrow evening (Decemer 7th) from 6pm – 8pm at Bywater Bakery. The group that bought the truck farm (former site of Chaz fest) will be presenting their plans for The Sun Yard, a boutique hotel with pool they plan to develop on the site. Homes that are already in place may be used along with new construction in building out this site. They are currently seeking a commercial zoning change for the large back lot which backs up to neighboring homes on North Rampart. Near neighbors shared concerns about this for a couple of reasons. One was that once the zoning is changed, it stays with the property even if it is sold or plans change. Some feel that this group has used some questionable tactics in attempting to purchase additional abutting properties. The future land use change was filed by someone on the sellers’ part who may have been unqualified to do so. All were encouraged to attend.

Mr. Jerard Ward then spoke about the new condo development at Burgundy and Bartholomew, called The Saxony, that he and his partner are developing on the site of the old Frey Meat Packing Plant. The old building has been entirely demolished and construction has begun. It is a commercially zoned property, that included two parcels. It will be a concrete building with 75 1-3 bedroom condos and a pool on the second story. There will be 96 parking spaces on the first floor that are included in the purchase price of units. There will be an estimated 200 + residents. On the first floor there are ‘artist’s lofts’ – which means they are smaller units (~380 sq. ft.) with large windows that open onto the street. They are marketing to “young professionals”, and pre-sales have been “slower than he likes”, mostly to “empty nesters”. The lowest priced unit is $189k. Mr. Ward was commended for the fact that no variances were necessary for the project.

A member suggested they alert neighbors when concrete trucks would start arriving.
When asked if he plans on including any affordable housing options Mr. Ward said that he feels $500 per square foot is already affordable, especially in the current climate of rising property values in the neighborhood and whole homes being sold as commercial properties/full time STR rentals. He noted that there are special loan options being explored for doctors and medical personnel in training (none for teachers or service personnel yet).

Monitoring of sound and vibration levels during pile driving were under the legal maximum levels, and efforts were made to minimize potential damage to neighboring homes. Monitoring is conducted from the building across the street, the old police station, where Mr. Ward has his office. No plans have been made for that building yet, but they are looking to lease it out.

Mr. Ward said he is “not a fan” of STRs and repeated several times that they “will conform to any and all city regulations” regarding STRs, but would not be seeing any clauses in the buyers’ agreements limiting or prohibiting them. Several attendees expressed their concerns and disappointment that he seems unwilling to protect the neighborhood in any way from any or all of these units being sold for use as STR’s, even if it may help attract the kinds of buyers he says he is marketing to.

Once 80% of the development sells, as per state law, the governing body for how these condos are used and maintained will be turned over to the condo association.
A commercially zoned property can AirBnB/STR 365 days a year. In closing it was noted that security is provided by a card key system at several points on the property.

Meeting adjourned at approximately 8:20.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, co-secretary

To download a PDF of these minutes Click here!
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New web site!

Welcome to the new NFB web site!

Our next general meeting is scheduled for February 7th at 7PM. Our meetings are held at the Stallings Recreation Center – 4300 St Claude Ave. at Poland Ave.

We are planning to host a moderated forum to explore the issues surrounding The Sun Yard, a proposed hotel development at the 3000 block of St. Claude. We hope to hear from both opponents and supporters, so that we can all better understand what has quickly become a fairly well publicized issue for our neighborhood.

We will also hear from Stephen Nutting, who is planning to open a restaurant at The Warehouse, 3014 Dauphine St. He says he’ll bring samples!

As usual, our trusty treasurer Brian Luckett will be on hand to accept new members or renewing members ($5 per year). Note: you don’t have to be a member to attend. You can also join or renew here.

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