In The News › Master plan going back to council

Jun 24, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Planning Issues

Master plan going back to council

Commission accepts some changes

Thursday, June 24, 2010
By Bruce Eggler
The Times-Picayune

After accepting some, but by no means all, of the City Council’s suggested revisions to New Orleans’ new master plan, the City Planning Commission will soon return the document to the council for what planners hope will be final adoption.

After listening Tuesday to more than 20 speakers concerned about everything from the Industrial Canal lock-replacement project to the future of the Audubon Park tennis courts, the commission accepted its staff’s recommendations on all but one of the more than 50 changes proposed by the council in April.

The commission flatly rejected one of the council’s most far-reaching suggestions: to “remove all topics not related to the physical growth of the city,” the basic subject of the master plan. Removing such unrelated material has been advocated by the Bureau of Governmental Research, but the commission said it considers including discussions of other issues appropriate.

It also refused the council’s suggestion to “prioritize the actions in each chapter based upon urgency, funding availability and likelihood that the measures will promote market interest.” It said it thinks the suggested actions are already adequately prioritized as short-term, medium-term and long-term.

And the commission said it lacks the resources to meet the council’s request for a map showing how the plan’s map of desired future land uses differs from current uses, though it has compared the future land use map with the current uses shown in a 1999 land use plan.

But the commission agreed to the council’s requests that it create an index to the plan and relabel various lists of goals, objectives and “action steps” to make them less confusing. It said it will do both those things as soon as the council gives final approval to the plan.

An amendment to the City Charter approved by voters two years ago gives the council 45 days to “take final action” on the plan once it gets the commission’s amended version in early July. Should it “fail to act” within that time, the version of the plan adopted by the commission in January will take effect, the charter says.

However, the charter is unclear on the issue of what happens if council members, unhappy about the commission’s failure to accept some of their suggestions, vote to reject the latest version.

Complicating the issue is that three of the council’s seven members took office after the body voted on the list of suggested amendments in April.

Many of the speakers at Tuesday’s hearing raised issues not even on the council’s list of suggested changes and therefore not up for action.

Among those issues, to no one’s surprise, were plans for the proposed Veterans Affairs and LSU hospitals in Mid-City. As they have many times before, critics of the hospital plans such as William Borah and Jack Davis criticized the fact that the master plan says little about whether the two hospitals should be built or how they should be designed.

An issue that is dealt with in the plan and that concerned several speakers, both pro and con, was what level of residential density is appropriate in Bywater. Advocates of higher density, such as Shea Embry and Mary Ann Hammett, said a larger population would increase the neighborhood’s chances of getting a grocery store and other retail outlets. But John Andrews said Bywater did not have a full-service grocery even when its population was much larger than it is now and that calls for higher density run counter to naturally occurring market trends.

The council, at the urging of higher-density advocates, suggested redesignating parts of Bywater for medium rather than low-density on the future land use map. In this case, the commission split the difference, agreeing to that change for certain blocks but not others.

The one issue on which the commission differed from its staff involved the Industrial Canal lock project, a subject of controversy for decades. In this case, the council suggested changing the proposed future use of nearby land from industrial to a park or open space. The staff suggested going along with this change, but the commission, worried that the redesignation could affect contractors’ right to use the land for staging construction materials during the lock replacement, voted to keep the industrial designation.

Jun 24, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Planning Issues

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