Neighbors First for Bywater board meeting – April 17, 2019

Present: Nancy Thacker, Anthony Eschmann, Mark Gonzales, Julie Jones, Tyler Harwood, Steven Jacob, Stephen Haedicke, Brian Luckett. The meeting was held on Nancy’s lovely back porch.

Called to order at 7:15 PM.

Our next general meeting will be May 1st. Stephen Haedicke will bring food with plates and utensils. Steven Jacob will bring water and cups for wine. Someone from SOUL NOLA, an organization that has been planting trees around the neighborhood, would like to do a presentation. John Koeferl would like to speak about the Corps of Engineers plans to expand the lock and Industrial Canal.

Julie passed out letters she had written for us to review regarding a “community feedback” meeting being hosted by the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance at Holy Angels, April 22 at 6PM. The letter would be to our members, encouraging them to go. We all agreed the letter was good, but planned to all read it more carefully after the meeting and let her know if we have suggestions. Everyone present agreed advocating for a smaller project with 100% affordable housing would be much better than the current proposal. HANO / ITEX is requesting zoning for the lot be changed from HC-2 (neighborhood commercial) and HMR-3 (neighborhood residential) to HU-MU, the highest density zoning in the city. Up-zoning to that extent isn’t necessary to do what they currently plan, and we are opposed to the change. We would also like to delay the decision as Gregg Fortner, the current executive director of HANO, is stepping down soon. He might try to push this project through, and he is the one insisting on the large number of units. When he leaves the new executive director may not be accountable if the project has already been approved. The project is very clearly profit driven. Everyone should stop calling it affordable housing because it is actually mixed housing. We need to try and get people to the GNOHA meeting because ITEX will certainly have their people there, and there have been efforts to paint those opposed to the project as “NIMBYs” or as being opposed to affordable housing developments in their neighborhood. We have to keep reiterating that we are absolutely in favor of affordable housing but that this project will not serve the tenants or neighborhood well. As it is currently zoned they could put 56 units and make them ALL affordable, which everyone would support. Some board members met with Kristin Palmer Monday to discuss our position, and also met with members of Jason Williams’ staff.

Julie, Nancy, and Brian all went to a Neighborhood Engagement Meeting hosted by Concordia LLC at the Parleaux Beer Lab the evening of Monday the 8th. It was not a NPP, but more of a “brainstorming session” with activity sheets for groups to fill out to give them ideas on how best to plan a hotel development on Chartres next to the “Rusty Rainbow”. The previous condo planned for that site was unsuccessful. They described their hotel idea as “The Drifter 2.0” (The Drifter is a hotel on Tulane Avenue with a bar and publicly accessible pool that frequently has events, which Concordia helped develop). They said they want to have a pool and bar on the top level of their hotel and have live entertainment. They don’t plan to have any parking because commercial space is a better use for the ground floor than a garage, and they can lease parking spaces from the French Market Corporation in the adjacent Crescent Park parking lot. They plan to have an NPP in 6 to 8 weeks.

The City Planning Commission is looking at the proposal to re-insert the affordable housing requirement in the riverfront overlay, which would require 10% of units to be affordable housing to get the height and density bonus. 10% doesn’t seem like enough – why not 15% as it is outside of the overlay in the existing Affordable Housing Density Bonus? The FMIA is still pushing for a 55 foot limit and affordable housing should be included anyway. Brian is going to try to meet with Kristin Palmer to discuss it with her.

Brian then informed us that the CPC is looking into a possible “backyard buffer” for commercially zoned businesses that wish to have outdoor seating in backyards that may be adjacent to residential homes. The FMIA is asking the city not allow any outdoor seating for HMC-2 zoned property that abuts a residentially zoned property. What effect could that have on development along St. Claude Ave.? Uptown they designate only a certain percentage of the back yard can be used. We agreed to wait and see what the CPC says and do more research before we take a position.

Up next was the appointment of officers and positions on the board. Everyone was comfortable with maintaining their current position, with the exception of Nancy, who will remain on the board but no longer as co-secretary. Tyler agreed to be secretary but will need backup from time to time. Mark agreed to make audio recordings of meetings if necessary. We discussed adding positions to potentially get new people on the board. We came to the conclusion the current size of the board is ideal – however, we need to make efforts to encourage other nominees. We do not want to be a self perpetuating board. We agreed the board election date being just after Mardi Gras every year is not ideal, so Anthony and Julie will propose revisions of the by-laws to be presented to the board for approval. If the board approves they will be submitted to the general membership for a vote.

The meeting ended at 8:19 PM.

Respectfully submitted by Tyler Harwood

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