Mar 242017

New Orleans City Study Committee’s suggested boundaries for the Parkview Local Historic District (in pink).

By Claire Byun

After mixed feedback from the public, the New Orleans City Council approved the creation of the Parkview Historic District.

The council approved the creation of the new district at their regular meeting Thursday. The historic district comes under control of the Historic District Landmarks Commission, which has oversight only over demolition.

“Parkview doesn’t mind being being a historic district,” said Jamie Hill, president of the Parkview Neighborhood Association. “We don’t mind being under HDLC, as long as demolition means the whole house, the entire house.”

Several people expressed concern at the murky definition of demolition, since 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 last month 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.

Carol Gniady, executive director of the Louisiana Landmarks Society, told the council HDLC control protects historic buildings that could be “indiscriminately” demolished without those protections. Erin Holmes, of the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, agreed.

“It is a common sense safeguard that will protect growth in our city,” Holmes said.

Both the Historic District Study Committee and the City Planning Commission recommended partial control with demolition review oversight for the Parkview district. Parkview Neighborhood Association’s boundaries only cover a part of Parkview, while the rest falls under the gaze of the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization. Emily Leitzinger, MCNO president, said the organization supports Parkview’s earlier vote to opt out of HDLC control but asked for demolition-only approval in areas that fall outside of PNA’s boundaries.

The Mid-City Historic District was created earlier this year with demolition-only oversight.

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.

Unlike many other areas of the city, the proposed Parkview district created a ripple from the neighborhood association. Many members were against HDLC control – the neighborhood association even officially voted to opt out – but others wanted the district’s protections. Part of that consternation comes from the unclear definition of demolition, but Councilmember Susan Guidry said city staff will clarify the definition in the future.

“I hope there will be an attempt at a more clear definition of demolition, and it will go through public hearings and several committees,” Guidry 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.

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