In The News › Draft of revised New Orleans zoning law is online

Aug 1, 2011

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Planning Issues

Draft of revised New Orleans zoning law is online

Monday, August 01, 2011
By Bruce Eggler
The Times-Picayune

When the City Planning Commission and City Council last year completed action on the first true master plan ever created for New Orleans’ long-term development, they were only halfway through the task of changing the way the city regulates land use.

Still to come was the first real revision in decades of New Orleans’ comprehensive zoning ordinance, or CZO, which spells out in exacting detail what the broad land-use principles and map designations in the master plan mean to someone wanting to erect a building or open a business on a particular piece of property — or to a neighbor wishing to block such a move.

A draft of the new CZO is now available for review and comment on the city’s website,, or at Citizens can review the full draft ordinance as well as accompanying maps and guides that explain how to navigate the lengthy document.

Public meetings and formal public hearings will be held before the new law is adopted.

There has long been widespread agreement that the city needs a new zoning ordinance.

A 2003 study by the Bureau of Governmental Research, an independent watchdog group, said the current CZO, written about 40 years ago and since amended hundreds of times, is “incoherent, overamended, outdated and vague,” and that “interpreting (it) is well beyond the reach of the typical developer, not to mention the average citizen.”

After a couple of abortive attempts, work on creating the new law began in 2008, at the same time as work on the master plan. However, serious work on the CZO — led by a Chicago planning firm, Camiros Ltd. — had to wait until the master plan was finally adopted, because the principles laid out in the plan determine much of what the zoning law states.

Zoning, a City Planning Commission explanation of the draft CZO explains, “establishes rules for determining where new development can be located. Zoning specifies where buildings can be placed on lots. It controls the height and size of buildings. It establishes rules for determining how existing homes, businesses and other buildings can be enlarged or altered.”

The commission also notes that zoning “controls development on private property. It does not control development within the public realm — the streets and sidewalks of the city. Zoning can regulate the exterior design of a building and its site. It does not control the design of the building’s interior. Zoning regulates how a parcel of land is used; it does not control the quality of that use or affect ownership.”
The new CZO, according to the planning commission, has been designed to achieve four objectives:

Create sustainable “place-based” zoning districts where people can live, work and play.

Rebuild and preserve sustainable neighborhoods through zoning standards that reflect the desired characteristics and uses of the different types of land found within the city, such as its historic core, rural areas, industrial zones and major destination centers like universities, cultural centers and retail corridors.

Encourage better design through controls and development standards addressing building and site design, parking, landscaping and signs.

Simplify the zoning process by providing a procedural framework that is easy to use and understand.

The ordinance, the commission said, provides “regulations which emphasize the maintenance or creation of walkable environments that reflect the desired character of residential neighborhoods (and) pedestrian-friendly commercial building fronts.”

The regulations “make allowance for mixed uses in specific locations, and provide flexible parking provisions which minimize the dominance of parking lots in favor of buildings which front on the street.”

The new document contains an extensive list of definitions, to minimize ambiguity, and numerous illustrations and charts to help users understand what it does and doesn’t allow. If the law is approved, some minor zoning variances will be allowed by administrative action, not requiring an appeal to a zoning board, if adjoining property owners agree.

The new CZO “will help guide us to the city we want to become,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “We want citizens to take a look at it, tell us what they think and add their voice to this stage in the process.”

Meetings will be Sept. 12-27, at locations to be announced, to receive comments from the public. The City Planning Commission later will hold formal public hearings and vote on the ordinance, which then must be approved by the City Council.

Aug 1, 2011

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Planning Issues

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