Written comments on the city's draftComprehensive Zoning Ordinance are due TODAY, Friday, November 29. VCPORA and French Quarter Citizenshave been reviewing the voluminous document (which can be viewed by clicking here) for the past few weeks. We applaud the dedicated City Planning Commission staff and commission, and the thousands of participating citizens whose work and input resulted in a needed overhaul of this vital city document.
As with anything this complex, there are many aspects in the draft that are only now becoming clear. Most are tremendous improvements over the current CZO, but two are very alarming, and we need your help to bring these to the city's attention.
First, the draft CZO deletes vital language that requires the Vieux Carre Commission to ensure that the character of the Quarter is protected. Known as Section 8.1. it mandates that the VCC only issue a permit under the following conditions: The historic character of the Vieux Carré shall not be injuriously affected; signs which are garish or otherwise out of keeping with the character of the Vieux Carré shall not be permitted; building designs shall be in harmony with the traditional architectural character of the Vieux Carré; the value of the Vieux Carré as a place of unique interest and character shall not be impaired. None of this language is included in the draft CZO. We strongly believe that these vital protections must continue to be a part of the VCC's evaluation process.
Second, changes to the rules about restaurants and alcoholic beverage outlets amount to a loosening of the current restrictions to the point that all standard restaurants would be able to serve alcohol and many (particularly those in the CBD and historic neighborhoods) would be automatically permitted to offer live entertainment. Writes Keith Hardie, New Orleans attorney and neighborhood activist, “These changes will have a dramatic effect on neighborhood business districts, all of which can now become more like Frenchman Street. The change in the way restaurants serving alcohol are regulated will remove from the City Planning Commission and City Council their ability to make sure that restaurants are good fits for our older neighborhoods, and the city-wide late night closing hours will encourage more restaurants to operate as bars. This one-size-fits-all approach is inappropriate for a City with diverse neighborhoods.” VCPORA and French Quarter Citizens urge that the current regulations remain.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Email the city and tell them that you want these neighborhood protections retained in the new zoning ordinance! Email addresses and suggested text below, but feel free to write your own message.
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Dear City Leaders:Again, the city has set the deadline for written comments as tomorrow, so please, take a moment today or tomorrow to send in an email!
I thank you for the work you've done to update the city's Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, but want to express concern about two elements of the draft document so that vital protections for the French Quarter and for neighborhoods across the city are retained. First, please keep the language currently enshrined in Section 8.1 of the CZO that protects the character and uniqueness of the Vieux Carre. Second, please don't change the rules for standard restaurants to allow them to be alcoholic beverage outlets, and in many cases, become live entertainment venues as matters of right. Without these protections in place, standard restaurants throughout our city's neighborhoods could become establishments that are incompatible with their surroundings. We need to keep the current rules in place. Sincerely,