NFB Board Meeting October 20, 2022

Held on Molly Henderson’s patio, started at 7:05 p.m.

Present: Julie Jones, Brian Luckett, Anthony Eschmann, Joe Brown, Susan Korec, Molly Henderson, Tyler Harwood, Michael Owings

We started out discussing the need to fill empty slots on the board. Joe has a neighbor that is interested and has been a member for long enough. A few other possibilities were talked over. Molly said Rhonda Findley may be interested in returning, and has lots of fun meeting ideas. More family friendly activities and social events would be a good way to boost attendance and bring in some diversity. Having some meetings on weekends was considered. Julie motioned that we write to ask if Rhonda would like to rejoin, Michael seconded, and the motion was approved unanimously.

We then talked about the possibility of having the animal control specialist for our next meeting and decided it would need to wait until November or December, and possibly be held outdoors (Clouet Gardens) if there would be live animals. The back patio of Luna Libre would be a good option as well. Other possibilities for the November general meeting were discussed. Our usual topics (NSA, HANO, NOPD, streets) would probably not inspire a huge turnout. Tyler suggested Freddie King or someone from his staff could come talk about what they have been working on and how Mr. King’s term is going thus far. We also talked about having someone from the movie industry talk about general goings-on and the current status of the tax credit. 

Near neighbors of Beanlandia have expressed interest in establishing a residential permitted parking zone. A certain percentage of neighbors would need to sign in support, and there would likely be a yearly fee for permits. They would need support of a neighborhood organization to proceed and we all agreed we should do so. 

Brian proposed NFB make a donation to Clouet Gardens. Julie motioned, Joe seconded, and the motion was approved unanimously. 

The meeting ended at 8:07 p.m.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, NFB secretary

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Neighbors First for Bywater – General Meeting September 7, 2022

Held via Zoom.

Present: Julie Jones, Anthony Eschmann, Brian Luckett, Joe Brown, Tyler Harwood

We were joined by Nakeila Polk, Director of Roadwork, and Lauren Muse, the outreach manager for the Bywater/Marigny project. We were also joined by Leslie Runnels, a resident of the 900 block of Clouet Street.

Ms. Muse told us that Homer Plessy Way is not the property of the city, but of the railroad, so Roadworks is not involved in the work going on there. The leak repairs along that road are being done by S&WB and the railroad. She then told us how their project along the 900 and 1000 blocks of Clouet St was stalled after they started to put down asphalt and numerous leaks were discovered. S&WB had to advise and eventually authorized Roadwork contractors to take over repairing them. The crews are currently repairing a leak at Japonica and Galvez and will move to Clouet St next. They expect to be finished by the end of September. 

Ms. Runnels, who lives at Clouet and Rampart Streets, showed us a photo of an unfinished section of Clouet St. filled with a significant amount of water, construction remnants, and a discarded car tire. Ms. Muse said she recognized that spot as the location of one of the leaks. They are having similar issues with leaks on Japonica and Port Streets. Ms. Runnels told us how the water covers the entire West side of the block and isolates residents on that side. Delivery drivers won’t cross the water so they throw packages across. Hoppers won’t cross it to get trash cans so residents have had to roll their cans all the way to the corner or their trash is not collected. Parking has also been a problem.

An attendee asked about stalled curb repair along Pauline St. and Ms. Muse told us some neighbors are in the right-of-way so establishing the curb has been difficult. They need permission to remove landscaping or vegetation of some sort and then they will require assistance from Parks and Parkways.

Ms. Polk acknowledged that the construction has been “unnecessarily painful” for some areas. When they started the project they were required to follow State of Louisiana contractual guidelines which dictate Roadworks can’t regulate the “means and methods” of the contractors. This means Roadworks has been unable to limit the number of sites in various states of disrepair at any point. Roadworks has since been able to change how the contracts are written so new ones will not have this shortcoming. Contractors will be required to finish a percentage of work before being allowed to start in new areas. Unfortunately it seems the contract that affects Bywater was written before this change, so there is apparently no limit to the number of areas that may be adversely impacted at any point.

Joe Brown asked about construction at France and Royal Streets. Ms. Muse said that is another area they have found a leak that has stalled progress but that S&WB has given clearance to repair it. An attendee asked about the 700 block of Congress and Ms. Muse said they have two sections of road to repair there but found leaks there as well. She explained that if they pave over leaks that roads could potentially fail in as little as 30 days. The pandemic has also slowed work as crews have been split into smaller specialized units. FEMA funding “trickling in” has also caused things to move slowly. 

Joe requested that the equipment lot at the corner of Royal and France be cleaned up as it has become a nuisance to near neighbors.

Brian asked about some holes in roads that do not seem to be included in the current project. Ms. Muse explained that these were S&WB repairs. They are unsure of their status and when it is time to repair the road it is not included in the current FEMA funding. They will have to apply for funding separately so it seems to be unknown when these areas will be repaired. Ms. Polk told us that residents can check on the status of a road repair by calling their hotline at 658-ROAD or emailing roadwork@nola.gov. Their website is roadwork.nola.gov. Julie suggested that Bywater residents email info@nfbywater.org and we can start a comprehensive list to submit. 

An attendee asked when the roadwork on Clouet St. began and Ms. Muse said they started with sewer repairs around mid-April, but that Entergy had done work on gas lines before that. Ms. Runnels said the street has been torn up for a year. Ms. Muse explained that Entergy and telecommunications companies are notified where Roadworks has work planned so they frequently will do work ahead of Roadworks in those areas so the street doesn’t have to be repaired twice. 

A Clouet St. Resident asked about damage he witnessed crews do to a brick sidewalk in front of his home. Ms. Polk explained that the historic brick pattern could not be restored by the Roadworks contractors and the resident had kept the bricks that had been moved. If Roadworks repairs the sidewalk it seems they would have to remove the bricks or restore it in some way that may be unsatisfactory. This appears to be an unresolved issue. 

Another attendee asked about how to go about getting a driveway and was advised to go to Safety and Permits to begin that process.

Our guests were thanked for their time. 

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, NFB secretary

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NFB Special Board Meeting – 6/29/2022

Present: Julie Jones, Brian Luckett, John Andrews, Anthony Eschmann, Joe Brown, Molly Henderson, Tyler Harwood, Susan Korec

The meeting was held via Zoom and started at 7:09 p.m.

Brian asked if any trees have been planted on Montegut St as the developers of the new apartment building promised. Tyler reported they had not, but that they are apparently waiting for the city to come put in curbs and will plant trees after (and if) that work is done.

Rhonda has ideas for fun activities NFB could sponsor. These events may be a good way to drum up more interest in the organization and diversify our membership. A wildlife rescue as a guest is proposed for some time in the fall. “Chicken Shit Bingo” was also proposed (laughter ensued). An art show at Luna Libre is applying for a grant, and NFB could be the non-profit “fiduciary agent”. Julie moved to approve the sponsorship. Joe seconded, and the motion was approved unanimously.

Brian then gave us a brief update on the controversial Outdoor Live Entertainment ordinance. The CPC has come up with a draft of a new sound ordinance (one already existed, but was never enforced) so there may be more clarity as to how the new rules would apply.

We then discussed a proposed text amendment to the CZO (zoning docket 051/22) that would allow cultural facilities in specific zoning districts to have live entertainment as a primary use, rather than as a secondary use as it is now. This would allow cultural facilities to have live entertainment without requiring a bar or restaurant as the primary use. The CPC apparently recommended Devin ask for the text amendment in the case Beanlandia is unable to get the conditional use for a bar.

Brian shared a chart in the CZO explaining what is currently allowed for Cultural Facilities. HMC-1 is for “restricted retail stores and service establishments” and can have cultural facilities. In HMC-1 a bar requires conditional use but they cannot have live entertainment. HMC-2 is for “more intensive commercial uses” and can also have cultural facilities. In HMC-2 a bar requires Conditional Use, and live entertainment would then be a secondary use (but only one permitted per block face). HM-MU (Beanlandia’s zoning) is “a mixed-use environment of light industrial, commercial, and residential” and a cultural facility is a permitted use. A bar requires conditional use and live entertainment would be a secondary use. Cultural facilities can be allowed in historic core residential zoning (permitted use in HMR-3, requires conditional use in all other residential zoning), but are not eligible to have a bar or live entertainment, so the new text amendment would not apply to those zonings.

The Garden District Neighborhood Association came out against the text amendment and it is likely others will as well. Brian feels that in our neighborhood the change would only affect properties that are usually appropriate for such use, so it may actually be a good change. Cultural facilities that have live entertainment without having alcohol would be more conducive to events for children. However, cultural facilities should be required to play by the same rules as other live entertainment venues in regards to sound levels ect… so the rules need to be specific. Brian will ask if Devin (the Beanlandia founder) would be willing to work with us to ask for the proposal to be modified. 

Brian spoke to Devin a few days ago to see if he would support a potential proviso limiting the occupancy of Beanlandia that would be attached to the parking waiver. Devin said he can’t because the occupancy limit is established by the Fire Marshall, and the Fire Marshall is unable to establish the occupancy limit until the zoning changes are finalized. There is no way to set a number for the proviso- it’s a “Catch-22”! Tyler wondered if it could be a percentage instead.

We all agreed it would be wonderful if NFB could find ways to advocate for near neighbors and also help Beanlandia succeed, but it is too complicated to do at this point. We agreed once again that the best way forward is to let the conditional use process do its job, and then we can help with provisos or compromises in the future if necessary.

The July 12 deadline mentioned in emails to the board earlier was a mistake – Beanlandia’s proposals will come up July 26. We have time to get more information and observe how things proceed. Devin is speaking with someone from the CPC Thursday so we can ask him for more details after that as well. 

Molly asked to discuss the Outdoor Live Entertainment (OLE) letter writing campaign again. She asked if we still have the same concerns now that a draft sound ordinance has been produced. The proposed increase in the number of allowed events is still problematic. If we are going to ask members to write letters we need to be specific with what we ask them to focus on. We could use more information, and allies in the Riverfront Alliance could be a good source. Brian reiterated that there needs to be a way to monitor the sound. The Sound Ordinance also says it would be enforced by health dept, which probably would not work. The police don’t have the resources, so it should be enforced by the new “night mayor”. 

Julie then asked about plans for the August general meeting since we agreed to skip the July one. It would be good to have an update from the NOPD, as well as an update on any NSA progress. (We sent out a lot of letters and didn’t get responses from anybody but Capt Nolan) We have little reason to believe the the site will be cleared as promised, and need to keep up the pressure.

The meeting ended at 8:00 p.m.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, NFB Secretary

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NFB Board Meeting – June 15, 2022

Held on John Andrews’ back porch. Present: Julie Jones, John Andrews, Joe Brown, Brian Luckett. Tyler Harwood attended via speaker phone.

The meeting started just after 7:30 pm with a discussion of the NSA. After a shooting and subsequent lockdown last night neighbors are on edge. Brian said he had spoken with Peter Aamodt, a representative of the developers, and he said a “sweep” of the property is planned. “No Trespassing” signs will be posted as well as a notice for occupants to vacate. The goal is for the property to be cleared by July 12th. Brian asked Mr. Aamodt to email him the schedule. We wondered where the occupants will go if they are simply ejected from the NSA. 

We have heard these sorts of promises before. Joe suggests NFB makes a statement as soon as possible. Writing the developer, city council, the mayor, and the NOPD was discussed and all present agreed it should be done. Joe and Brian will write it. 

We then discussed the proposed Outdoor Live Entertainment (OLE) laws that will soon be brought before City Council. Brian proposed we push for some sort of remote sound monitoring to be part of the new laws as suggested by staffer Winston Fiore. Without a sound ordinance there are simply too many variables and unknown factors that make the new rules problematic. Brian will write the letter to Councilmember Freddie King. 

The next General Meeting was then brought up. Rhonda had a suggestion for an animal rehab expert, but thought it would be better sometime in the fall. Since the next meeting would fall very near the 4th of July and many members will likely be out of town it was agreed it would be OK to skip this one. Tyler suggested we send an email to the membership telling them what the board is working on in the mean time.

We still need to fill a vacancy in the board. Miles Swanson, one-time president of the FMIA (Marigny), who has recently moved to Bywater, had been previously suggested and the board approved. Since it is now 3 months (as per our bylaws) since he joined NFB, we proposed to get in touch to see if he is still interested (Julie will do). We also discussed a potential venue change for future meeting as the Stallings Community Center will no longer allow us to serve alcohol. We like that Stallings is a public space and not a private business. It was agreed to stick with Stallings until a better option is proposed.

The proposed conditional uses being applied for by Beanlandia were then briefly discussed. Julie was told not enough neighbors signed their support for the alcohol permit. Brian proposed suggesting a proviso be attached to the parking waiver that would limit capacity for larger events. Devin (Beanlandia) was said to be seeking the use of a parking lot at a nearby church.

The meeting ended at 8:18 pm

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, NFB secretary

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Neighbors First for Bywater – Board Meeting, April 20, 2022

Held on Molly Henderson’s back porch. Present: Molly Henderson, Joe Brown, Tyler Harwood, Julie Jones, Brian Luckett, Anthony Eschmann. 

The board was joined by two guests – Devin De Wulf, who is heading up the Krewe of Red Beans “Beanlandia” project; and Costas, a near neighbor who is opposed to the project. Beanlandia is being planned as a cultural facility, and is seeking conditional use to sell alcohol and have live music, as well as a parking waiver.

The meeting started at 7:19 after a few late arrivals. After our guests were introduced Devin spoke about past zoning challenges the residents of Bywater have struggled with, and the resulting bitterness. Developers looking for profitable ventures may not always be entirely honest about what they plan to do. Devin emphasized this is not the case with Beanlandia. He said the plan is for Beanlandia to be a community center, and has wide community support. 

A cultural facility is an approved use by right under the property’s current zoning. If the conditional use is granted the plan would be to host smaller events five nights a week. Devin does not believe the music needs to be loud, as one of the purposes of the facility would be to remain appropriate for children. Consultants would be hired to advise on acoustic treatments. 

Alcohol permits are not granted for businesses within 300 feet of a playground unless they are non-profits, schools, or city run concession stands. Beanlandia is a non-profit, but in order to get the permit they need notarized approval from 75% of neighbors within 300 feet of the edges of the building. If the permit is not approved the facility will be BYOB, which is less desirable as there is no control over the types of alcohol being served or the quantity. Additionally it would be a loss of revenue, and they would be forced to allow private events (weddings, ect…) to make up for it. Devin explained that a near neighbor asked that the facility not host such events so they were removed from the original plans. Molly asked if, in the case the permit is granted, if he would be amenable to a proviso prohibiting private events, and Devin said he would. Devin also noted that the facility would not be open late even though it would mean more income if it was. 

Parking seems to be the trickiest problem. It is physically impossible for the site to provide enough parking. The property has a small lot that holds approximately ten spaces, but the law requires one space per 300 square feet, which would be somewhere around 54-57 spaces. Tyler asked about the Crescent Park lot one block away providing some relief, but Devin said he is not entitled to claim it as a solution. Brian asked if he had spoken with Turn Services, a shipping company nearby with a large parking lot. Devin said he had but it was not an option. 

Devin then showed comment cards from Tuesday’s NPP meeting, and said he had 25 in support and one opposing the project. He showed us a letter opposing the project and some fliers that had been distributed he said included inaccurate information. One flier expressed concern about Devin’s estimate of 235 visitors a day to Beanlandia, but he noted that Pizza Delicious currently has around 400 a day. 

Next we heard from Costas, who told us he felt the neighborhood was under attack from parties that want Bywater to become more of an entertainment and tourist destination. He said he initially liked the idea of Beanlandia, and supported it until he got the NPP packet. He explained that elected officials and the government are there to offer protection to residents, but that Devin wants to circumvent the rules. If Beanlandia gets the permits it seeks and something goes wrong, he said, neighbors wouldn’t be able to do anything. 

Costas gave us a handout with charts and graphs. There was a map showing the number of change of use permits (presumably alcohol) issued in our area since 2012, and it highlighted the number near the playground at Markey Park. There was also a graph illustrating a spike in STR permit applications. He said when he asked Devin what the occupancy of the building was that Devin guessed around 1000. Costas later researched the fire code and calculated the legal occupancy would be closer to 2100. There was a graph illustrating how Beanlandia could be bigger than House of Blues. He is distressed with the idea of 2100 people in a building so close to his home, and the parking problems that would bring. He also mentioned a potential increase in alcohol and drug consumption as well as litter at Markey Park. There was a brief discussion regarding the feasibility of that scenario.

Brian explained that he had taken time to study the regulations regarding the liquor license. If Beanlandia cannot get 75% of the near neighbors to approve the permit then it will not be considered and the group will then have to consider other options. If they are able to get 75% of near neighbors to approve then the proposal will then go to the CPC and City Council, at which point the near neighbors will be able to request provisos. Provisos can apply a number of enforceable conditions, such as operating hours and occupancy limits. The near neighbors would be in a strong position to negotiate at this point. If Beanlandia opts instead to forego the conditional use and operate a restaurant on the property, which is permitted with the current zoning, they will be allowed to serve alcohol and host live music by right. 

If Beanlandia is unable to get the conditional uses for live music approved they will still be allowed to host 12 special events per year. Special events can span three days, usually Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In this case, Devin said, there would likely be demand for larger events since they would be confined to shorter time periods. 

Brian expressed his displeasure that these zoning issues so often pit neighbors against neighbors. It would be easier if the rules were clear and more consistent.

Anthony called attention to the time and our guests were thanked for joining us. After they departed the board discussed our sympathies for both sides of the issue, but agreed that the law is working as it is written. If Beanlandia is able to get 75% approval from near neighbors we would be of more use in the next phases of the process. 

Julie asked the board members present if they wish to remain in their current positions. There were no objections, though Tyler requested occasional assistance with secretarial duties.

Molly then told us about a harrowing car jacking attempt nearby, and her discussions with neighbors who provided valuable security camera footage to the NOPD. Their conversation inspired an idea for “Porch Friendly Fridays”, which could be an opportunity for near neighbors to meet, exchange contact information, and take note of which neighbors have security cameras set up. Neighbors may be able to respond quicker than the police in emergencies. It was also noted this could be useful ahead of hurricane season. The event would most likely be monthly, and could be sponsored and promoted by NFB. We all agreed it sounded like a fine idea. 

The meeting ended at 8:27 p.m.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, NFB secretary

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NFB General Meeting – April 6, 2022

Held at “Beanlandia” (the former Giordano Furniture warehouse at 3300 Royal St.)

Since it was our first in-person general meeting since early 2020, we visited some before the meeting started in earnest. There was pizza, wine, and water provided.

At 7:12 p.m. Julie Jones introduced NOPD 5th District Captain Gwen Nolan to the group. Capt. Nolan read the number of reported crimes in our district so far this year in several categories, and the number of auto burglaries was the highest number by a hefty margin. She told us that they had arrested two suspects that they believe were responsible for a majority of the burglaries, and they are currently in jail awaiting trial. One of them is also being charged with attempted murder. Since they have been detained the number of car break-ins in the area has dropped dramatically. The police were able to catch them because a citizen called while witnessing a break-in. Another citizen saw related suspicious activity on their surveillance camera and called it in. Capt. Nolan encouraged us to install cameras and submit any useful videos to the new email address NOPD has set up – 5thdistrictvideos@nola.gov. When submitting include the date, time, location, type of crime, and your contact information. She also implored everyone to be vigilant, and not leave any valuables in our vehicles, especially guns, even for short periods of time. It seems most of the time the thieves are looking for guns.

Capt. Nolan then told us about the Louisiana 211 system. 211 callers can be connected with services that provide assistance with basic needs like food and clothing, after school child care, elder care, Covid-19 information, or help with opioid addiction. There is a video on the 5th district Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NOPDFifth) with more information.

There have been three car jackings in our district this year, and all three cars were recovered. The three cars were found parked together. There is a warrant out for the arrest of a suspect. Wanted posters are posted on the 5th district Facebook page and are updated regularly. Capt. Nolan encouraged the group to help. Videos of the monthly NONPACC meetings and weekly MAX meetings held at the station are also posted on the Facebook page. The MAX meetings are every Tuesday at 1 p.m. and NONPACC meetings are the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. Both are open to the public.

An attendee asked Capt. Nolan’s opinion on leaving his car unlocked to avoid having his window broken. The Captain said some people leave notes stating there is nothing left in the car, but it’s not known if that works. Locking up your car makes it more difficult for crooks, and that is preferable. Another attendee commented that a criminal could hide in an unlocked car, which would be an unpleasant surprise. 

Capt. Nolan is hopeful that crime can go down in the 5th district as she has seen success in other parts of town, however there are still not enough officers to effectively deal with current conditions. She asked us to help recruit new officers, and clarified that not all police are on patrol. Some are in labs or photographers. An attendee encouraged Capt. Nolan to put that information on the 5th District Facebook page. Another attendee asked why the pay level for NOPD is not competitive enough with nearby areas. NOPD often loses officers to Jefferson Parish or St. Bernard. Capt. Nolan suggested contacting City Council to ask them to help. The group thanked Capt. Nolan for joining us.

Julie then introduced Devin De Wulf, the founder of the Krewe of Red Beans. Devin gave us a brief history of the Krewe and how it grew to around 800 members, and splitting into two separate kid-friendly parades on Lundi Gras. At the start of the pandemic the Krewe started a mutual aid effort by delivering food to weary health care workers. They got donated money to ailing restaurants in the process, and paid out of work musicians to deliver the food. The project was a huge success. Delivering groceries to at-risk friends of the Krewe was the next idea. That project grew into Feed The Second Line, which is now a thriving non-profit offshoot of the Krewe, and delivers groceries to people in need all over the city. Other Krewe mutual aid efforts were Fest Fest, which hired musicians impacted by the cancellation of Jazz Fest to play small, socially distanced backyard shows; and Hire a Mardi Gras Artist, which paid out of work Mardi Gras float artists to make “porch floats”. The Krewe also collected donations to fund cleanup and repairs after Hurricane Ida and the recent tornado. Through these many efforts the Krewe raised over $3.5 million and provided paying gigs for more than 250 New Orleanians in need. 

Beanlandia, the large building our meeting was held in, had been the Giordano Furniture factory and warehouse since 1947. The Krewe of Red Beans bought the building last October. The Giordano family offered owner financing as banks were unwilling to loan money for the purchase. The payments are being made by collecting donations from “members” of Beanlandia. Anyone can join by choosing a monthly payment in any amount. The Krewe plans for the building to be a Cultural Facility, which is an approved use with the current zoning.

Devin told us his plans for different rooms in the building. One would be a large space where the public could watch the Krewe of Red Beans, Mardi Gras Indians, and other artists create their suits and related art. The room we were in is toward the back and is the largest and longest. It is planned to be a “bean museum” with large murals made from beans on the walls. He would like to put a small stage for live music on one end and a concession stand with a small bar on the other that could serve alcohol. Another large room would be a classroom, and the front entrance will be a popsicle stand. There is space on the second floor where the office for Feed the Second Line would be, as well as a sewing studio for Mardi Gras Indians. In the future Devin hopes for a “bean restaurant” as well. There is also a large back yard and a modest parking lot. 

The building is a “fixer-upper”. There is no heating or A/C, and no restrooms. The renovations are being funded by members, and the architect is a member of the Krewe. They hope to add openings in the back wall with garage doors so the space can be open air when weather permits, cutting down on the need for running a large, potentially noisy A/C, which would likely be located on the back side of the building. 

The facility would be primarily for members, but tourists would be welcome and their donations would fund the space and the Krewe’s other non-profit initiatives. It will not be marketed as a tourist destination. The plan is for the live music sound system to be deliberately small, just enough to host the brass bands and other bands that march with the Red Beans parade so they can benefit from the facility as well without the expense and hassle of special permits. Devin plans on hiring a consultant to minimize sound outside the building, working with neighbors to designate “quiet times”, and establishing an ongoing neighborhood advisory group to improve and adjust live music policies over time. 

The “concession stand” (bar) is thought of as part of the ambience of the space, and not the main reason to visit, nor would it be the primary source of income for the space. Like the sound system it will be deliberately limited, and the hours of operation would be afternoon / early evening until 9 p.m. The facility will close at 10 p.m. Because the building is across the street from a playground there are special rules about alcohol permit availability. Beanlandia is eligible because it is a non-profit. If 70% of near neighbors approve they can get the permit. If the permit is not granted the space will be BYOB when not having a special event, which is less desirable because there is less control. In the unlikely event the Krewe is forced to sell the building the new owner would need to apply for a new conditional use unless they are also planning a non-profit cultural facility. Conditional Use for alcohol isn’t available to most uses. It is available to cultural centers and to hotels.

The other thing the Krewe needs to proceed, and perhaps the most daunting issue, is a parking waiver. There is a small parking lot behind the building, but it is not possible for the facility to provide the required amount of parking in our tightly packed historic neighborhood. One idea is to reserve spaces for near neighbors in the parking lot when parking gets tight on the street. Devin noted that most of the Krewe members live in the area, so will likely walk or bike to the building, which will hopefully help.

The krewe wants to avoid hosting larger private special events, such as weddings, which can be disruptive to the neighborhood. In the case they are unable to get the conditional uses they seek these types of events may be financially unavoidable. Without the necessary conditional uses being granted 12 special events per year are allowed under current law, and can run for 3 days (Fri, Sat, Sun). Devin added that since a large portion of the membership lives in the area they share a common desire for the space to be more of an asset than a nuisance. Devin lives with his family two blocks away. He shared his phone number and email with the group and encouraged anyone who likes what the Krewe has planned to become members. 

Julie then told the group it was time for the NFB board election. Since no new nominees were introduced she asked if the group would vote by acclimation for the current board to continue to serve. Cherry May put forth the motion and Steve May seconded. There were no votes in opposition.

The meeting ended at 8:25 p.m.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, NFB Secretary

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Neighbors First For Bywater – General Meeting – March 9, 2022

Held via Zoom

The meeting started at 7 p.m. as we visited and waited for a few more panelists to arrive and work out technical issues.

At 7:05 Julie discussed the upcoming board election. There are currently 10 members on the NFB board: John Andrews, Joe Brown, Anthony Eschmann, Tyler Harwood, Molly Henderson, Steve Jacob, Julie Jones, Susan Korec, Brian Luckett, and Michael Owings. There can be up to twelve board members. NFB members are encouraged to nominate new candidates. To be eligible nominees must have been NFB members for at least three months. To vote a person would need to be a member for one month before the election. Since the pandemic and the lack of in-person meetings has made paying dues difficult it is irrelevant if membership dues are current at this time.

Julie then introduced Eve Abrams, Elizabeth Macey, and Bettina Reutter, all near neighbors to a large property at 3000 – 3032 St. Claude. They told us that the current owners of the property are asking for a zoning change to key lots that abut the back yards of numerous residents. The lots along St. Claude are already zoned commercial (HMC-2) and the key lots behind them are zoned residential (HMR-3). The owners want to make it all commercial. The city usually dislikes “split zoning”. Since these properties used to all be separately owned residential lots until they were eventually bought up by the former group of owners the situation is unique, and it is also an unusually large assemblage of lots to be owned (and now listed for sale) by one party.

In 2018 the current owners had plans to build a hotel (the “Sun Yard”) on the property but needed the zoning change and a conditional use. Near neighbors organized in opposition, and when it became apparent that City Council would deny their request, the owners pulled the request for conditional use at the last minute, leaving only the zoning change on the table without explanation. The council voted against the zoning change, and the owners have since sued the city. It is unclear and unusual, but this legal procedure may be an attempt to skip reapplying for the usual CPC review process. 

Since the 2018 denial the commercial structures (former homes) have been leased to a few artists, presumably as studios, but seem to have largely been neglected. The key lots in back remain empty. Several trees have been removed. Neighbors reached out to the new District C council member Freddie King, and he came with members of his staff to visit the neighbors and hear their concerns. It appeared he was not impressed with the condition of the commercially zoned structures. Mr. King had asked for a deferral when the zoning change was originally scheduled to come up for a vote before the council and now it is scheduled for April 7th.

The motives for the current zoning change request are unknown, but it is safe to assume it is to raise the value of the property, as it is currently on the market for $1.9 million. The real estate agent describes the property as “LARGE ST. CLAUDE COMMERCIAL ASSEMBLAGE” and says “The highest and best use is likely a hotel, short-term rental, or restaurant/bar.” < link >

The neighbors, once again, are nervous what may be in store for their back yards, and are understandably weary and annoyed. They encouraged us to join them at the City Council meeting on April 7th, and/or contact council members to oppose the zoning change.

NFB contacted the property owners and their attorney(s) to see if they would like to join the meeting but they were either unavailable or didn’t respond.

Julie reminded everyone about the upcoming NFB board election and thanked our guests. The meeting ended around 7:47 p.m.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, NFB secretary

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Neighbors First for Bywater Board Meeting – February 16, 2022

Held on John Andrews’ back porch. Present: Julie Jones, Anthony Eschmann, John Andrews, Susan Korec, Joe Brown, Brian Luckett, Tyler Harwood, Molly Henderson

The meeting started at 7:17 p.m. with a discussion of what to do for our next meeting, which would fall on Ash Wednesday this year. All agreed postponing is necessary. This would be the meeting that the annual board member election is held.

The owners of the “Sun Yard” property (3000-3032 St. Claude – the old “Truck Farm”) are once again requesting a zoning change for the back part of the property, technically key lots, from HMR3 (residential) to HMC2 (commercial). [https://council.nola.gov/getattachment/979fffa8-d4f7-4a7e-91a3-e1fe177772b9/file – page 36] The motive is unknown. Councilmember King visited the property and met neighbors yesterday and is requesting the proposal, which was on the agenda for Feb. 17, be deferred to April 7. Neighbors have asked for NFB support once again and it would be good to have them come to the next general meeting to inform membership of what is happening. Since the proposed deferral would put the item up again on April 7th it was agreed it would be good not to postpone our next meeting until what would be our next usual time, April 6th.

Brian suggests we invite someone to speak about the port expansion in St Bernard Parish. Port of New Orleans has acquired a large piece of land to build a cargo terminal, but there are serious concerns about traffic and other impacts to the surrounding area. Port traffic could be a problem for Bywater if trucks use St. Claude Ave. Brian agreed to see when the period for public comment ends so we can be sure to invite a speaker before then.

Other issues the City Council are currently discussing are changes to the CZO regarding outdoor live entertainment permits and “parklets” (outdoor seating areas in the street for bars and restaurants). Staying aware of what is happening would be judicious as either could have a big impact on near neighbors.

It was agreed we should push the March general meeting back one week to March 9th. We will invite neighbors of the 3000-3032 St. Claude property and someone from St Bernard Parish if possible. The meeting will be held on Zoom. Tyler will research if holding the vote for board members is possible on Zoom, or if another electronic method may work better. An email will be sent to membership seeking any potential new nominees.

The meeting ended at 8:15 p.m.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, secretary

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NFB General Meeting, February 2, 2022

This meeting focused on the ongoing issues with the blighted NSA complex off of Poland Avenue. Tim Murphy from the Health Dept started out the meeting by telling us about a recent visit to the facility. Conditions are far from safe or healthy in the buildings, but they were relieved to not find any children or people in need of medical assistance. Superintendent Roman Nelson from the New Orleans Fire Department then told us about fires and other hazards on the property. Recent fires there were apparently started by burning trash. Our new District C councilmember Freddie King introduced himself and his staff and they offered their full support. Jeffrey Schwartz, the city’s Director of Economic Development introduced Peter Aamodt and Brian Gibbs from the MCC Group, which has plans to develop the property. They are still getting the financing finalized and hope to start demolition in the spring. The plan is for one of the three buildings to be turned into affordable housing. The middle building, which is a parking garage, will also be utilized. There are no plans yet for the third building, which is the one nearest the Industrial Canal. They currently have one security guard that patrols the property, but they are unarmed and can only observe activity there and call police if there are issues.

Many questions and concerns were coming up in the chat, more than we had time to get answers for! There is a great deal of frustration with the poor condition of the property and criminal activity potentially linked to the people camping out there, but the developers say development will start soon which would hopefully start to make the area safer. A video of the full meeting can be viewed below.

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NFB Board Meeting Jan 12, 2022

Held via Zoom, started at 7 p.m.

Present: Julie Jones, Joe Brown, Brian Luckett, Anthony Eschmann, Stephen Haedicke, Molly Henderson, Tyler Harwood

Julie introduced us to new prospective board member Molly Henderson, and other candidates were discussed. The election for board members is supposed to be in March, which means it would be Ash Wednesday. There is also the question of whether voting would be better at an in-person meeting or if it can be done online somehow given the continuing pandemic. It was agreed to postpone until April in hopes of meeting in person.

The February general meeting will be February 2nd and will need to be another virtual one. Street construction was brought up as a potential topic, as was the recent proliferation of car-jackings in the area. Then the topic of the ongoing problems associated with the blighted Naval Support Activity (NSA) property came up. Neighbors near the property are getting more and more fed up and another recent homicide that is possibly linked to a “resident” has added to the stress, as has a loose aggressive dog. We met with former council member Palmer about issues at the property several times in the past but there was little to no progress. The possibility of distributing a petition and organizing protests was discussed. Brian contacted HUD to see if he could get an update from them and was told the developers “have been invited to submit pre-application”. He read the letter to the group and it seems HUD had productive meetings with the developers and likes their plan. Meanwhile squatters discovered they could remove large sections of security fencing by fastening it to a passing train. 

It was agreed to make the NSA the topic of our next meeting to update neighbors, raise awareness, and maybe even get some answers. We should invite NOPD, the fire department, New District C Council Member Freddie King, and see if there are social workers or homeless outreach that may be interested. Partnering with the BNA in some capacity was discussed. A joint meeting could probably get a good turnout and maybe even some results. An in-person meeting would be preferred. Molly volunteered to contact someone from the BNA. Joe volunteered to make some flyers to post once plans solidify.

The meeting ended at 7:55 p.m.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, secretary

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