Neighbors First for Bywater – Board Meeting, July 17, 2019

{Note from secretary: A general meeting was held July 3rd, but it turns out we failed to take minutes. There was a discussion about security cameras and developers from MKRed showed plans for housing they are planning for 3200-3210 Chartres.}

Meeting called to order at 7:15. 

Attending: Nancy Thacker, Julie Jones, Brian Luckett, Steven Jacob, Tyler Harwood, Anthony Eschmann, Stephen Haedicke, Michael Owings, Mark Gonzales.

Allen Johnson and Donna Wakeman from Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association (FMIA) were guests at the beginning of the meeting. They told us about their efforts to ask for changes to the zoning ordinance regarding outdoor dining and entertainment in historical districts, specifically in commercial properties neighboring residential properties. Most zoning districts in New Orleans have rear yard requirements that help to buffer commercial activity next to residential property. Historic neighborhoods didn’t have these requirements because typically a commercial building takes up an entire lot, but it becomes problematic when some do not, and want to include dining or entertainment in yard spaces. FMIA started to work on this issue when the “Red House” on St. Claude was bought and new owners wanted to make the back yard an event space, wine bar, and entertainment venue. If allowed, this use would have been intrusive to abutting residential lots. Almost all the properties on St. Claude have back yards that abut residential lots. Councilmember Gisleson Palmer and her staff submitted a motion (No. M-19_238) on June 6th, and it was widely supported and adopted. The motion directed the City Planning Commission (CPC) to take on the issue and make the appropriate changes. Part of the idea is to allow for “good neighbor agreements” should new businesses want to be exceptions to the new rules. Some discussion of the ins and outs of good neighbor agreements followed. How are they enforced? Do they apply if businesses change owners? The FMIA wants NFB’s support, and encourages people to come to the public hearing August 13th to support the changes.

After Allen and Donna left the group discussed whether we should vote to support FMIA and the motion. Would it have a negative impact on the development of St. Claude? Why should it if all it is doing is giving neighbors a voice? Mark suggested stronger language regarding existing businesses getting grandfathered in. Brian mentioned seeing a lot of opposition to the motion on Nextdoor (social media). Some people seem concerned the changes would adversely affect the culture of the city. It was pointed out that our mission states we want “to give neighbors a voice in land use, density, zoning and any other issues that affect the quality of life in Bywater”, and the opportunity for good neighbor agreements would be just that. When almost all other districts in the city have rear yard requirements it seems odd to exclude Bywater, which is mostly residential. Julie made a motion to support the FMIA in their efforts, Mark seconded. The vote was unanimously in favor.

Before Allen Johnson left he reminded us about the July 18 City Council meeting, where the Riverfront Overlay will be discussed. Councilmember Gisleson Palmer is proposing to amend a proposed CZO change to eliminate the Riverfront Overlay. Without the overlay, heights for new developments along the river would be limited to 55 feet.

The next general meeting is planned for August 7th. Someone from Bike Easy, a bicycle advocacy group, plans to do a presentation. It was suggested we also update members about the ongoing meetings regarding the HANO/ITEX development and the planned development process. We should also tell members about our decision to support the FMIA and the changes to zoning rules regarding outdoor dining and entertainment. The possibility of someone from the NOPD coming to give us updates was also suggested. Tyler will bring food, Steven J will bring water.

Adjourned at 8:23 pm.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, secretary

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