A group of homeowners has asked a judge to prevent the owners of Sammy’s Grill on Highland Road from adding a driveway behind the restaurant, something owner Sammy Nagem says is needed for safety.
In a petition for declaratory judgment filed in 19th District Judicial Court Tuesday, the Magnolia Woods Civic Association asks a judge to order Nagem and his wife Mary T.T. Nagem to rescind the subdivision of a residential lot behind the restaurant and to stop using the lot to store restaurant supplies.
Nagem, who bought the lot in 2010, said the lawsuit was a “necessary step” for him to be able to rezone the lot so that he could add the driveway, which would also add about 30 parking spaces.
“If we would have passed (a rezoning request) through the city council, we probably still would have gotten sued,” he said.
Nagem said the driveway was needed for safety reasons, because people who try to park in one of the two lots at his restaurant are forced to back out onto Highland Road if there are no spaces in the lot.
The suit alleges that the planned driveway would encroach on the Laurel Lea subdivision and that the subdivision of lots violates building restrictions of the subdivision, which were filed in 1954.
“In my mind, the deed restrictions have been abandoned,” Nagem said. “I didn’t know about these restrictions when I bought the property.”
He subdivided another adjacent lot in 2000 to expand his parking lot without objection, Nagem said.
“There is no subdivision association created to enforce the restrictions, no architectural committee to study the plans,” said Nagem’s attorney, David Cohn. “It’s been a situation where everybody just got along.”
Efforts to reach representatives of the Magnolia Woods Civic Association or its attorney were unsuccessful.
Nagem originally submitted a rezoning request to the Metro Council in October of last year, but withdrew the request after the council voted to defer the issue.
“We wanted to make a driveway that would go behind the building and connect the two parking lots for safety reasons,” Nagem said. “We got a lot of opposition through that process.”
Nagem said he worked with homeowners in the neighborhood to find an acceptable compromise, but was unsuccessful.
Nagem’s original plan had been to put an exit from his parking lot onto Kimbro Drive, which runs behind the restaurant, but after homeowners objected, he withdrew the idea, he said. He had also moved the line of the driveway to accommodate homeowner’s requests, he said.
“I have done everything I could do,” Nagem said.
The suit also accuses Nagem of using the lot behind his restaurant to store supplies for the restaurant, a violation of the neighborhood’s single family use requirement.
“I could be storing some stuff I use at work, but I am not conducting any business,” Nagem said. “I live there when I am in town.”
Nagem’s primary residence is in Monroe, but he stays in Baton Rouge 2-3 nights per week, he said.
The suit asks a judge to declare that the building restrictions in Laurel Lea subdivision remain in effect and to order Nagem to undo the subdivision of the lot behind the restaurant and stop “activity inconsistent with single family use on said lot.”