In The News › Proposed new zoning law draws criticism at community meeting

Oct 2, 2013

Source: The Advocate

Filed under: City Government, Orleans Parish, Zoning

Proposed new zoning law draws criticism at community meeting

By Jaquetta White

The Advocate

October 02, 2013

A proposed overhaul of the city’s comprehensive zoning ordinance was met with some dissatisfaction Tuesday night from residents of eastern New Orleans, who expressed fear that the new rules still will do little to stop the proliferation of “dollar stores” and multifamily residential developments in their neighborhoods.

The City Planning Commission said it has attempted to address those concerns by changing the commercial zoning in some areas to set special requirements, for instance, for stores of over 5,000 square feet.

City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson said the city will also make developers submit to strict design standards, a process that she said could discourage retailers and other businesses that don’t want to invest in the community.

“We’re even going to make dollar stores have design planning,” she said.

In previous community meetings, residents urged the city to restrict those types of stores, which have proliferated in the East, from building there altogether.

That’s not possible, Clarkson said.

“What we can do is put them through the planning commission process. We can make them go through design planning. They will have to have nicer facades. They will have to go through landscaping,” she said.

Those changes were not satisfactory to Corinne Villavaso, a member of the Eastern New Orleans Neighborhood Advisory Commission, who suggested that the city require a buffer zone between similar developments, to prevent such stores from popping up near each other.

Tuesday’s meeting in New Orleans East was the first of 10 community meetings that planners will hold this month to discuss proposed changes to the city’s long-outdated comprehensive zoning ordinance.

The proposed revision, which has been more than two years in the making, gives legal force to the land-use guidelines and principles set forth in the city’s master plan.

It governs development on private property in New Orleans and includes lists of permitted land uses for each zoning classification, as well as height limits, setback requirements, urban design standards, operational rules and other regulations.

“It puts in place zoning that is known by everyone,” Clarkson said. “There’s no guessing. There’s no getting halfway through a process and not being able to continue.”

The current law governing zoning is more than four decades old and has been amended hundreds of times to address changes in the way New Orleanians live, work and play, yet it still is antiquated in some regards. It was called “incoherent, over-amended, outdated and vague” in an October 2003 study by the Bureau of Governmental Research.

“Interpreting the zoning ordinance is well beyond the reach of the typical developer, not to mention the average citizen,” the nonprofit research agency said.

Until this year, there was no mention of food trucks in the current ordinance.

City officials, residents and the business community have long agreed that a new zoning ordinance is necessary. The new ordinance is designed to be easier to decipher than its predecessor. Whereas the 1970s ordinance consists of 800 pages of text, the new ordinance contains graphics, flow charts and pictures to illustrate its rules, said urban planner Steve Villavaso, a key contributor to the revision process as a consultant to the commission. He is not related to Corinne Villavaso.

Planners have refined the revised measure with input from residents and other stakeholders since a previous round of community meetings was held in 2011.

The proposed new law revolves around a “place-based” zoning system that divides the city into various districts based on fundamental land-use patterns. The “historic core,” for instance, includes neighborhoods such as Treme and the French Quarter. Other basic places identified in the law are the Central Business District, suburban-style neighborhoods, industrial districts, rural areas, open spaces and institutional districts, such as sites of universities and shopping malls.

The city expects to adopt the new ordinance in March or April of next year after it is approved by the Planning Commission and then the City Council.

The latest round of meetings will conclude Oct. 17, but residents will have an opportunity to comment on the zoning ordinance until Nov. 30 by emailing or calling (504) 658-7033.

Copies of the draft ordinance can be viewed at New Orleans public libraries or online at

Oct 2, 2013

Source: The Advocate

Filed under: City Government, Orleans Parish, Zoning

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