Planning Commission wants help mapping out future
A small but persistent group of critics say the City Planning Commission is railroading through a plan to overhaul the city’s 30- year-old zoning ordinance without adequate public advice. Yet commission officials maintain there have been ample opportunities for public review of the plan, pointing to another this month.
The commission is sending out 140,000 flyers — together with your April utility bill — inviting locals to a final round of public meetings before the proposed zoning changes go to the City Council this summer.
The 13 meetings — one in each zoning district of New Orleans — begin on April 2 and run through May 16. Called mapping work sessions, the meetings will allow property owners to comment on zoning guidelines in their neighborhoods and give residents the chance to draw suggestions on working maps.
The process, says Planning Commission Executive Director Collette Creppell, helps people visualize the changes of the new plan.
Commission officials say the new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, which establishes new mixed-use residential and commercial districts, makes it easier for businesses and residents to coexist harmoniously in neighborhoods. The plan’s guidelines are also more specific and therefore more enforceable than those in the old ordinance, they say.
Citizens have had several opportunities to comment on the text of the office’s new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance since it was unveiled last March. But residents of each zoning district have had just one forum to assist in drawing the actual zoning maps.
Creppell says her staff will incorporate citizen comments on the maps and the text into the final draft of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, which she says should be ready to present to the City Council in June. Assuming the council signs off on the plan, a new set of zoning laws could be in place by as early as October.
In December, a local preservationist group called the Master Plan Coalition hired national land use attorney Daniel Mandelker to review the commission’s proposed changes to the zoning ordinance. Mandelker’s January report called the new plan “inadequate” and recommended it “be shelved until a more effective zoning ordinance can be prepared.”
The Master Plan Coalition, headed by land use attorney and longtime activist Bill Borah, has tried to encourage the commission to rework the New Orleans Master Plan — or, specifically, the Land Use Plan within it – – before going forward with the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.
Creppell says many of the suggestions in the Mandelker report, which recommends sweeping and costly changes to the city’s zoning system, “are very valuable,” but would be difficult to enact quickly. She says the commission needs the new zoning ordinance now to replace the current ordinance, a document she calls a “tremendous Achilles heel to this city.”*
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