Air Rights before City Council Committee

Air Rights Before City Council’s Governmental Affairs Committee

This Friday: March 17, 2017 at 2pm
City Council Chambers, 1300 Perdido St.

balconies dauphine (1280x573)

This Friday, the City Council’s Governmental Affairs Committee will take up the matter of air rights, which are encroachments of private property onto public rights-of-way.  The encroachments in question are elements of historic buildings – balconies, galleries, eaves, stoops, etc.  Property owners in the French Quarter and beyond have been hit with annual fees, called “franchise agreements,” ranging from a few hundred dollars to over $5000 a year, and with no guarantee that the rate won’t increase.

For over 6 years, VCPORA has been attempting to obtain further details about the city’s air rights policy.  We’ve asked:

  • What triggers the imposition of the fee on a given property?
  • Which agencies play what role(s) in this process?
  • How was the formula by which the fees are calculated developed?
  • What is the appeals process should a property owner dispute the fee?

There are further questions of fairness (these fees were not disclosed at the time of purchase), logistics (stoops, for example, are necessary to get in and out of the buildings they serve), and public benefit (galleries and balconies provide pedestrians with shelter from rain and sun).

Another major concern is the requirement that property owners indemnify the city in the case of a lawsuit – in other words, property owners assume all liability if the city is sued.  And our research thus far has not found an insurance company that would write such a policy, which means property owners would be personally liable.

We believe that property owners should be encouraged to maintain the elements that give our neighborhoods their character, not to mention are the major driver of our tourism economy.  Penalizing owners through annual fees would have the opposite effect.

We look forward to getting clarification on these and other aspects of the air rights policy at Friday’s meeting, and hope that many of you will attend.

NOTE:  Properties in the French Quarter appear to be the most likely affected, but there are thousands of buildings in Marigny, Treme, the CBD, Warehouse District, Mid-City, Uptown, and beyond that are also affected.

Please join us at Council Chambers this Friday to ask these questions.