In The News › Finish line nearing for N.O. master plan

Apr 8, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Planning Issues

Finish line nearing for N.O. master plan

But debate shows no sign of easing

Thursday, April 08, 2010
By Bruce Eggler
The Times-Picayune

As the final adoption of New Orleans’ two-years-in-the-making master plan approaches, criticism of the proposed plan and the process used to create it shows no sign of abating.

The plan, which the City Planning Commission approved in January, is intended to guide the city’s development for the next 20 years.

At what was advertised as the City Council’s final hearing on the more than 500-page document Wednesday night, speakers objected to some of what the plan says, some of what it doesn’t say and how the council has been considering it. Three council members attended the City Hall session.

The council plans to vote April 22 to send the document back to the planning commission with a list of proposed changes, most of which were recommended by speakers at Wednesday’s hearing and seven meetings held last month at sites around the city.

Many of the suggested changes are likely to be in the document’s land-use maps, not its text.

The commission then will have 60 days to consider the proposed amendments. After it decides whether to accept them, it will send the plan back to the council, which at that point will have new members representing three of the five council districts.

Under the City Charter, the council then will have 45 days to “take final action” on the plan. It is unclear what would happen if the council rejects the commission’s final version or the new members have different ideas on the plan from their predecessors.

Some speakers Wednesday night called for specific changes in the proposed plan and its land-use maps, such as redesignating several tracts in eastern New Orleans as wetlands rather than developable land, and increasing the proposed density for parts of Bywater, where some residents hope increased density can attract amenities such as a grocery store.

Other speakers took a much broader focus.

Janet Howard, president of the Bureau of Governmental Research, said the latest version of the plan corrects some of the problems the bureau found in an earlier draft last year. But in an analysis posted Wednesday on its Web site, www.bgr.org, the bureau said the current version still “does not provide sufficient guidance on the physical development of the city,” is confusingly organized and hard to use, and “strays from its mission by covering an array” of unrelated issues.

Howard said the council should direct the planning commission to correct what problems it can now and start work on more sweeping changes that could be adopted next year. Under the charter, the plan can be amended each year.

Ron Nabonne, who helped lead an unsuccessful campaign in 2008 against a charter amendment giving the then-unwritten plan the force of law, pointed out that the city’s new zoning law likely will not be adopted until about a year after the council finally approves the master plan. As a result, the current zoning law, which in many respects is inconsistent with the master plan, still will be in effect even though the charter now mandates that all land-use decisions must conform to the new plan.

Nabonne called the discrepancy “a formula for chaos and confusion.”

Planning Director Yolanda Rodriguez said adoption of the new zoning law necessarily must follow approval of the master plan, since the plan forms the basis of the law. She said the planning commission will start using the master plan as the basis of its decisions as soon as the document is adopted by the council.

Several speakers, as expected, criticized the master plan’s authors for not challenging plans to build new Veterans Affairs and state teaching hospitals in Mid-City.

William Borah, who campaigned almost alone for years to get the city to create a master plan, said failure to address the hospitals issue was “a serious flaw in this process,” but he said, “We can fix it. It’s not too late.”

Echoing Borah’s comments was Jack Davis, his colleague in the group Smart Growth for Louisiana. Urging the council to get more involved with the hospitals issue, Davis asked the members to “remove this stain” from the master plan.

Apr 8, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Planning Issues

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