NFB values all input!

Recently we have come to understand that there are sometimes neighbors who have differing opinions that may not feel safe in sharing them. As an organization that really does want to put neighbors first – we need to hear from everyone! We welcome people who do not feel comfortable sharing their opinion at a public meeting to directly contact our president, Julie Jones, by emailing her at info@nfbywater.org, or by using the contact page on this web site.

Please – share your opinions! Get involved!

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NFB Board Meeting March 21, 2018

Neighbors First for Bywater Board Meeting

3/21/18 – John Andrews house

Present: John Andrews, Tyler Harwood, Michael Owings, Anthony Eschmann, Steve Jacobs, Rhonda Findley, Brian Luckett, Nancy Thacker, Mark Gonzalez, Julie Jones

Called to order 7:07

Meeting began with a discussion on how to make the organization more open and welcoming to all neighbors. The importance of hearing differing points of view and opinions is a key component to an organization which puts Neighbors literally first in terms of consideration. It was noted that some members of the community had shared with a  board member their fear of speaking up, which puts the board member in a ‘secret holding’ position.

With the goal of listening to everyone, a motion was made and seconded, to include on the website a statement which outlines a safe and confidential way that people can share differences of opinions. Nancy will draft language for Tyler to then put out for approval prior to posting.

It was also noted that there is a seat open on the board and that elections will be next general meeting. This, too, will be announced on the next communication with NFB members. One potential candidate was discussed, and  it was agreed that she would be contacted.

Rules for representing the NFB in the community were reviewed, noting that a disclaimer needs to be made if sharing personal opinions and not those of the NFB. Steve J volunteered to draft a response to the BNA to acknowledge their decision to withdraw from a coordinated neighborhood celebration for New Orleans 300th Birthday. Mark will contact the appropriate person at the city to have the BNA name removed.

Next general meeting, which is on April 4th, will include elections, as well as an invitation to bring in issues that neighbors want to work with the new council person on. What kinds of business, development can we invite? How to grow the neighborhood with more focus on who actually lives and works here. How to avoid becoming the French Quarter or CBD. Nancy will bring food – Steve J water and Mark plates and napkins.

As the discussion continued on St. Claude development and the neighbors who were concerned for having differing opinions on what that can look like led to the development of a sub-committee. Motion made and seconded  – The St. Claude Committee will help to focus on developments such as Holy Angels. Rhonda, John, Nancy and Steve Jacob agreed to be on said committee.

Meeting was adjourned 8:23

Respectfully submitted: Nancy Thacker, co-secretary

A PDF file of this document can be downloaded here.

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Special Board Meeting after Sun Yard forum 3/11/18

Emergency Board Meeting 3/11/18

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

Meeting called to order at 5:32

Focus of meeting was to articulate as clearly as possible the neighbors concerns expressed at the general meeting held on the Sun Yard. Approval standards used to address concerns were noted as 4.3F and #’s 4 and 6 – all having to do with the integrity and appropriateness for a development in the neighborhood.

While wording and issues were refined, it was noted by a board member that there are some ‘silent’ near neighbors who are fearful of sharing their approval of this project. It was unclear just how many neighbors share this stance, as their fear/silence makes it difficult to represent what has not been shared.

A motion was made that the letter, which reflects that the stipulations/privisos made for this project are not sufficient and that the conditional use request does not meet the approval standards, be written and read out to the council on the meeting this coming Thursday.

The motion passed with one nay. Mark G. agreed to attend the meeting and read the letter aloud.

Meeting moved to adjourn at 6:00.

Respectfully submitted : N Thacker co-secretary.

A PDF of these minutes can be downloaded here.

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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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NFB Board Meeting Feb 21 2018

Neighbors First for Bywater Board Meeting 2/21/18, at Julie’s house.

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

Guest: Jason Richards and Giuliano Pignataro

Meeting called to order at 7:04.

Mr. Richards and Mr. Pignataro presented and discussed plans for the Sun Yard development. In looking at the changes the CPC ask for, it was noted that things technically are more challenging than the staff report.

Parking on site hindered by insufficient space for a compliant driveway. There is no resolution presently – hopes for this to be resolved by the end of the week.

The lot across the street, for which there was/is and option agreement also seems problematic. There was an agreement for parking to be at the rear of that lot for the front portion to be reserved for a building, if needed. Crossing St. Claude also presents some obvious issues.

Plans are for there to be unmetered spots in front of the development for loading and unloading.

The issue of trash being collected and removed from Montegut St. (next to Steve Merlin’s home) has only conceptual approval at this point.

The pool is against the back wall of some neighbors, and the concern for noise not clearly addressed. There was a request to move the pool to the interior of the development. The sheds that are being renovated into a bar are considered to be open, and the CPC requested that the bar be moved into the building. The issue does not appear to have been clearly addressed yet.

Issues related to the new building(s) and the size and scope of same is also in process. It was noted that a second floor height had been reduced.

Presenters were unaware of what the maximum occupancy would be for an event – room occupancy was noted as 74. They believe that this will be a hotel first and foremost – and were unable to clearly address the concern that the restaurant on site might be part of an event such as a wedding which would encompass the entire facility. Concerns were raised that this could potentially expand on the 150 people they estimate capacity to be for a wedding.

Gentrification issues were also briefly noted.

Both Mr. Richards and Mr. Pignataro were thanked for their time and for making a special effort to inform the board.

Details for the March 7th Sun Yard Forum were then discussed. Printed cards for attendees to write their questions on were agreed upon, and Mark G took on this task. Who would be at the front table for representing the two sides, moderator, timer and amount of time for each questions was explored. Much of the format was adapted from the Council Forum held by NFB several months back. Communication will be ongoing via email to refine details.

Clear duties at close of meeting were: Tyler on audio, Rhonda on set up, Mark for cards and outreach for representation. Brian will draft questions from the board, Julie will send out an announcement including an invitation for written questions.

920 Frenchmen Street – follow up & noted that we have already voted on this and a letter has been sent.

For next meeting – clarify flow of communication between NFB and new council representative.

Meeting adjourned at 8:33.

Respectfully submitted: N Thacker, co-secretary

A PDF copy of these minutes can be downloaded here.

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Sun Yard Forum

Our last general meeting was a forum involving the people who plan to build and operate a hotel/restaurant/outdoor space to be called the Sun Yard in the 3000 block of St. Claude Avenue, extending back toward N. Rampart Street, and the neighbors who will be affected by this plan. Thanks to everyone who came! Our goal was to give everyone an opportunity to share information or express concerns, and we feel it was a success. You can listen to a recording of the forum here. [UPDATE- The recording is separated into two parts to keep file size down, apologies to anyone who couldn’t get it to play before!]

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March 7th General Meeting – Sun Yard Forum

Neighbors First for Bywater will be holding a forum to discuss the Sun Yard proposal for much of the 3000-block of St. Claude. This will take place on  our regular meeting evening, March 7 at 7pm at the Stallings Center (St. Claude on the river side just before Poland).

Although neighbors will have a chance to ask questions at the meeting, we would like to put together the most important questions ahead of time in order to avoid repetition and to make things run more smoothly.

The questions will be answered by one or both of the owners of Sun Yard and/or their architect or, as appropriate, by one of the near neighbors (there will be either 2 or 3 near neighbors sitting on the “panel”).

The NFB board feels a moderated forum may be the best way to understand all sides concerning this development since there have already been so many opportunities to attend presentations and NPPs. We want everyone to be heard.

If you have questions now, please send them to us at this address or at info@nfbywater.org. Please include the address of your home or business in Bywater.

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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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