In The News › Planning process OK, speakers say

Mar 8, 2007

Source: Times-Picayune

Planning process OK, speakers say

Planning process OK, speakers say
Continued public participation urged as document is revised
Thursday, March 08, 2007
By Bruce Eggler
Staff writer

More than 200 people turned out Wednesday night for the New Orleans City Planning Commission’s second public hearing on the citywide recovery plan released several weeks ago as part of the Unified New Orleans Plan process, but only a relative handful offered substantive comments on the nearly 600-page document’s merits or deficiencies.

Most of the dozens of speakers indicated they were more concerned about continuing the high level of public participation they said went into the drafting of the citywide plan and 13 district plans also prepared by the UNOP team of planners.

Other speakers said their key concern was seeing that the plan moves through the City Hall bureaucracy as rapidly as possible and is not derailed by criticisms such as a strong attack issued this week by the Bureau of Governmental Research.

The BGR report suggested the plan is so flawed that rather than letting the UNOP planners revise it, the Planning Commission should “take control of the document and process.”

“I don’t believe we should stop and start over,” John Pecoul, vice president of the Central Carrollton Association, said at the hearing. He said that “would be a slap in the face” of all those who took part in several rounds of district and citywide meetings during the UNOP process.

Conceding that some of the BGR criticisms “are fairly accurate,” Troy Henry, one of the chief UNOP planners, said he and his colleagues have been meeting with the Planning Commission staff to go over the document and are revising it extensively.

The commission’s executive director, Yolanda Rodriguez, said it probably will hold at least one public hearing on the revised plan, on a date to be set after the revision is complete. She said the staff has sought “significant revisions” to the plan.

Meanwhile, the commission will hold a third public hearing Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in the City Council chamber at City Hall, at the end of its regular biweekly meeting.

Chairman Tim Jackson said that hearing was requested by the City Council and will focus on recovery plans prepared outside the UNOP framework, such as an ACORN plan for parts of the 9th Ward, a plan crafted by Broadmoor residents and the so-called Lambert plan created by Paul Lambert and other consultants working for the council before the UNOP process began.

Jackson said the commission will not be ready to vote on the revised UNOP plan until April “at the earliest.”

Many of the speakers Wednesday night endorsed a statement issued by the Planning Districts Leadership Coalition, a group that says it includes community leaders from all 13 planning districts.

“We are here today asking you to let us continue our participation in rebuilding our great city,” coalition spokeswoman Saundra Reed said. She urged the commission to “work with us to generate an immediate, interim and long-lasting, formal and legal citizen-participation structure.”

Jackson said the commission is working with the Committee for a Better New Orleans/Metropolitan Area Committee on ways to ensure maximum participation.

Like many other speakers, Reed also called on the commission and the UNOP planners for clearer timelines on when the citywide and district plans will receive final approval and when and how they will be implemented.

Commission members and their staff responded that after they act on the plans and send them on to the council, such issues are out of their hands, with action dependent on the will of the council, of Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration and of the state, federal and private sources that planners hope will provide the money for the $14 billion in infrastructure projects listed in the citywide plan and the scores of other projects recommended in the district plans.

Although UNOP’s Henry acknowledged the validity of some of BGR’s criticisms, he rejected what he called a “tone” in the watchdog group’s report suggesting that it would be wise to reduce the city’s footprint by discouraging rebuilding in particularly flood-prone neighborhoods. “We came up with innovative approaches to preserving all neighborhoods but putting them out of harm’s way,” such as by elevating and clustering homes, he said.

Asked about Henry’s comment, BGR President Janet Howard said her group had not taken a position on the issue of a smaller footprint. She said comments in the BGR report about the greater dangers to certain neighborhoods came from the UNOP document.

Asked Wednesday about BGR’s criticism of the citywide plan, Nagin said, “That’s kind of their mode of operation.”

“They had an opportunity to craft that plan, and they laid back,” Nagin said. “We’re going to take their criticism and see if we can incorporate it going forward.”

Nagin’s recovery director, Ed Blakely, also issued a response to BGR’s comments.

Blakely said that “while the UNOP plan was not designed to provide an absolute blueprint for all of the actions necessary to complete our recovery, it does provide useful data based on a process driven by the people.”

He said he and his staff “have already begun working with the Planning Commission to craft a recovery plan with a budget and timeline. We are developing a clear path for the recovery of the great city of New Orleans, and the UNOP plan is a critical part of this process. . . . We applaud the Bureau of Governmental Research for its analysis and we welcome their constructive comments.”

The UNOP documents are available at The BGR critique is at

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Bruce Eggler can be reached at or (504) 826-3320.

Mar 8, 2007

Source: Times-Picayune

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