VCPORA and French Quarter Citizens Inc., two long-standing organizations dedicated to preserving the historical integrity of the French Quarter, the city’s first neighborhood, are taking the City of New Orleans’ City Attorney, Law Department and the City Planning Commission to court to produce public records relevant to Section 8.1 of the City Zoning Code.
The case will be heard by Judge Lloyd Medley on Dec. 22, 10 a.m.
At recent hearings before the City Council, the CPC’s Director has referenced recent legal opinions from the City’s Attorney’s Office that prompted the removal of Section 8.1 from the CZO, even though that element has given VCC the power to review land use in the Quarter since the 1950s.
The suit was filed after the City Attorney’s Office failed to respond to a public records request for documents related to this advice from the City Attorney to the City Planning Commission regarding Section 8.1.
VCPORA and French Quarter Citizens Inc. frequently cite Section 8.1 of the City Zoning Code because it gives the Vieux Carre Commission the authority to add a vital layer of review to proposed new uses in the city’s oldest neighborhood.
“The authority given by Section 8.1 to the VCC empowers this agency to protect the tout ensemble of the fragile Quarter neighborhood, and aid residents who have been pushing back against the area’s encroaching commercialism which has eroded the area’s residential base to less than half of what it was 20 years ago,” said VCPORA Director Meg Lousteau.
Ms. Lousteau said residents have been meeting with Council leaders to return Section 8.1 to the City Zoning Ordinance, still before the Council for amendments and final vote. “Returning Section 8.1 as a key protection to the CZO is critical,” said Ms. Lousteau.
“We find it odd that the CPC hides behind the City Attorney in ignoring this key provision, especially in light of several land use challenges to historic, residential areas,” said FQC Director Carol Gniady.
“But when asked to provide these legal opinions or supportive communications, the city law department claims they can’t index their documents by topic.”
Attorney Tony Marino, a Quarter resident and long time advocate for both organizations said, “I find it odd that the City Attorney’s Offices says they can’t search their own records. Really? In 2014?
The issue here is that these city agencies are using a City Attorney’s opinion to make public policy decisions. It would seem such opinions would be documented and can be produced.”
For more information, contact C. Brylski (504) 897-6110.
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