The city Planning Commission received a tongue-lashing Wednesday night from residents of the Faubourg Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods, who said the opinions they have expressed about future development of their neighborhoods have been ignored in the city’s proposed new comprehensive zoning ordinance.
“I’m afraid that this process of filling out comment cards and attending charettes isn’t working,” said Gretchen Bomboy, a Marigny resident.
Displaying a map of Marigny with the proposals for zoning she said residents made more than two years ago, Bomboy said none of those suggestions has been incorporated into the proposed ordinance.
“None of the things we’ve asked for in the CZO are in the CZO,” said Lisa Suarez, a past president of the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association.
At specific issue for many of those in attendance is a provision in the code that would allow some buildings erected near the riverfront to be as tall as 75 feet — 25 feet taller than the existing 50-foot height limit for new construction in Bywater and Marigny — provided they meet certain requirements.
“Our neighborhood is completely against that,” Suarez said. “We are not against development. We are pro-sensitive development that incorporates the neighborhood.”
The neighborhood is against “grand architecture that’s not appropriate to village scale,” she said. “To build 75-foot buildings is not really appropriate in terms of the historical fabric of the neighborhood.”
Residents said they fear allowing developers to build 75 feet into the air along the water would eventually wall off the river and riverfront development, such as Crescent Park, from the rest of the neighborhood.
The proposed new zoning ordinance includes parts of the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods in a so-called “riverfront design overlay district.”
The district applies to all lots, except those with single-family and two-family houses, along the Mississippi River from Jackson Avenue to the Pontchartrain Expressway and from Esplanade Avenue to the Industrial Canal.
The upriver portion stretches inland to Tchoupitoulas Street, while the downriver section concludes at Decatur and Chartres streets.
The proposed ordinance includes 11 overlay districts, created to require special controls on areas of the city that have “special characteristics or special development issues.”
Under the rules of the riverfront overlay district, a structure would qualify for a height bonus if it is located at the intersections of Poland Avenue, Mazant Street, Piety Street and Press Street with Chartres Street or the intersection of Elysian Fields Avenue with North Peters Street.
Those intersections are called “gateways” in the zoning ordinance and are explained as “key to improving and encouraging pedestrian access through the use of special design features.”
Properties built at those intersections that also include public open space or sidewalk cafés and that use energy-efficient or “innovative sustainable design” and contribute to improvements on the riverfront would be eligible for the height increase.
No height bonuses would be allowed in the Vieux Carre under the proposed ordinance.
The dispute over new building height has a long history in Marigny and Bywater. Residents, led by the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association, objected several years ago to a document called Riverfront Vision 2005 that introduced the idea of 25-foot height bonuses for new construction.
Just last year, Bywater and Marigny residents led a successful battle against a proposed 75-foot-tall development along the riverfront.
The neighborhood’s “Size Matters” campaign led Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, whose district includes Faubourg Marigny, to persuade the City Council to reject a request for a 25-foot waiver to build Elisio Lofts, a proposed six-story apartment building at Elysian Fields and Decatur Street. The project had been approved by the Planning Commission.
Several residents dusted off their “Size Matters” T-shirts for Wednesday’s meeting. Some carried signs bearing the message “Out of Scale. Out of Touch,” beneath a drawing of a massive, modern building towering over small homes.
Residents said they don’t think planners listened to the concerns they raised two years ago when the process of rewriting the zoning ordinance began.
“The residents of the Marigny do not trust this process and want the gateways removed,” Nick Suarez Lambert said to applause.
Wednesday’s meeting was the ninth of 10 community meetings planners have held this month to discuss proposed changes to the city’s long-outdated zoning ordinance.
The final meeting will take place Thursday night for the Mid-City and Treme neighborhoods, but residents will have an opportunity to comment on the zoning ordinance until Nov. 30 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (504) 658-7033.
The draft CZO can be viewed at public libraries or online at www.nola.gov/city-planning.