temporary and hopefully soon-to-be-permanent
Thanks to the tremendous outpouring from citizens,
the city has put air rights on hold!
On Friday, March 17th, the City Council’s Governmental Affairs Committee put the issue of air rights on their agenda. This was in response to the city’s efforts to compel property owners to enter into leases, and indemnify the city, for existing encroachments – stoops, awnings, eaves, balconies, and galleries – on the sidewalks.
The response from the public was incredible. Citizens from all parts of town and all walks of life turned out to decry a practice that they – and we – believe is antithetical to the architecture, history, and culture of our neighborhoods; harmful to our tourism industry; and just plain nonsensical.
After CAO Jeff Hebert and a team from the Landrieu administration made a brief presentation, four attorneys – Tommy Milliner, Galen Brown, Michael Duplantier, and Tony Marino – addressed the city’s legal claims about being obligated by state law and the state constitution to carry out this policy. They were followed by a wide array of citizens from the French Quarter and beyond. Napoleon House chef Chris Montero read a letter from owner Ralph Brennan, who’d been holding off on making repairs to the iconic restaurant because of the requirement to sign the $5000+ annual lease. Actor and French Quarter resident Harry Shearer said, “We can continue to look like New Orleans, or we can look like Anywhere, USA.” VCPORA assistant director Jenna Burke spoke to our research into how other Louisiana cities implement this requirement. Bottom line: they don’t. “Surely, if this were a state mandate, other places would know about it,” she said. Other speakers tackled the affordability issue, the real estate entanglements, and the inherent unfairness in purchasing, paying property taxes, and maintaining these historic elements, and now being told that you have to pay more.
What we heard from the city was very encouraging. They said that they would basically suspend the policy for the next 30 days, and take that time to reexamine the policy.
“We’re in the process of doing legal review to see if we have any flexibility in the way that state law is written that would let us have flexibility in enforcement,” Mr. Hebert said. “Based on that review, we may have flexibility to do something that is better for the citizens of the city.”
Important note: If you have a property with an encroachment, and have been holding off on getting permits to do work on your property, in the Vieux Carré or anywhere in the city, you now have a window in which to get that permit without being forced to sign a lease with the city. That window closes on Monday, April 17.
We hope that, during this 30 day review period, the city will come to a different conclusion, one that supports the retention of historic elements, and doesn’t penalize property owners. We will share any and all developments on this issue with you as we hear them.