By Claire Byun
Parkview residents are asking to be removed from Historic District Landmarks Commission oversight, though though the New Orleans City Council will have the final vote.
The Parkview Neighborhood Association Board voted not to become a local historic district after an attempt to redefine demolition was brought to the board. Parkview members sent a letter to Paul Harang, director of City Council Relations, last month informing the council of their “unanimous” vote.
The park board argued that the city’s “recent last-minute attempt to expand the definition of ‘demolition’” would potentially strip property owners of rights to make certain changes to their property. The letter also voices frustration that the change was made after the HDLC’s public meetings and expands the reach of the committee’s “demolition-only” review process.
The demolition ordinance was withdrawn and not considered by City Council, Harang said in a letter to the neighborhood association. Regardless, Parkview residents voted to opt out of the new historic district, and the organization made their intent clear at Thursday’s Governmental Affairs Committee meeting.
“Our concerns regarding due process, property rights and the present process to change the definition of demolition was again discussed and it was agreed that a loss of trust in the process had irrevocably occurred at this time,” Parkview Board member Jack Monroe said in a letter.
Both the Historic District Study Committee and the City Planning Commission recommended partial control with demolition review oversight for the Parkview district. According to city code, demolition is defined as “complete or constructive removal by an applicant of a building on any site.”
C. Elliot Perkins, executive director of the HDLC, said Thursday the “constructive removal” code gives city staff the ability to judge the percentage of building fabric being removed and whether the character and essence of the building will be maintained.
“That is a more discretionary evaluation, and it leaves it open to the staff of the commission,” Perkins said.
Regardless, the Parkview board’s decision remains. Jamie Hill, president of the neighborhood board, told the Governmental Affairs Committee she appreciates the assistance of city staff and remains “in talks” with administration.
But that doesn’t change the “unanimous” vote by the association, she said.
“That may not be a permanent decision, but until clarity about that definition, and how it was changed, and how to move forward becomes clear, we’re very much against being a part of HDLC at this time,” Hill said.
The council voted to approve the creation of Mid-City’s district and the Parkview Local Historic District, as proposed by the Historic Preservation Study Committee, at a December meeting. That vote came after several months of deferral, though an August public meeting drew much praise for the creation of historic districts in Uptown, Mid-City and Parkview.
The HDLC is, in effect, taking over properties ruled by the Neighborhood Conservation District Advisory Committee which was questionably established and placed under city council rule, Stacy Head, Councilmember-at-Large, said. Thursday’s meeting marked the beginning of a series of educational efforts directed at informing the public on HDLC.
“Today is our effort to begin to educate the public about changes in properties, changes in law in the city, and how the HDLC could impact their properties and their neighborhood,” Head said.
City administration agreed to a proposal that would change certain boundaries from NCDAC to HDLC control, said Eleanor Burke, deputy director for the HDLC. The plan included taking the existing districts and turning them into HDLC partial control districts, which would review demolition only.
After considering reports and surveys submitted by a review committee tasked with scrutinizing the proposal’s feasibility, the City Planning Commission in late September voted that the designations should be created, and the Historic District Landmarks Commission should be given limited oversight in both areas.
Specifically, the commission decided homeowners in Mid-City and Parkview neighborhoods should have to seek permission from the HDLC only before tearing down buildings.
It was one of several options residents considered when giving input about what level of control they’d like over development in their areas. Other options would be to allow the HDLC oversight over new buildings and renovations, too, or to not give the regulatory agency any control over either new construction or demolition at all.
City Council will vote on excluding Parkview at their next meeting, though Councilwoman Susan Guidry said the neighborhood association’s vote isn’t the end-all, be-all.
“The neighborhood organization may have voted to go out of it, but I don’t want them to think that’s a determining factor,” Guidry said. “There’s seven of us up here that have to vote on that.”