Jun 152017

Councilmember Susan Guidry addresses the crowd Tuesday during a Master Plan Town Hall.

The New Orleans 20-year Master Plan is up for revision, and public greenspaces and housing affordability are some of the key revisions local groups are hoping to enact.

Most of those amendments deal with the changing priorities of the city; stormwater drainage, equitable housing and resilience encompass many of the changes to be considered by City Council next month. Councilmember Susan Guidry, who represents a swath of Mid-City, held a town hall earlier this week to explain what these amendments mean for residents and gave people the chance to ask questions of policy experts.

Andreanecia Morris, executive director of HousingNOLA and chair of the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance, took on the question of equitable – and affordable – housing amendments. Morris said the housing alliance proposed density and zoning changes along heavily-transited corridors around the city, so developers could build in areas closer to public transportation.

Many people around the city have minimum-wage jobs, Morris said, so making city living more affordable is key.

“This is one of hundreds of recommendations – we think it’s important and we spend money and time on all of them, because we think they’re all important in the big picture,” she said.

Rather than changing the Future Land Use Map to bump up density – and possibly further crowd some neighborhoods – residents suggested transportation be brought into places “where people already live.” Increasing bus stops and improving transportation in already-dense neighborhoods sounds easier, Morris agreed, but the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority doesn’t have those resources yet.

“It sounds really simple, but frankly the RTA would have already done it if it was easy,” Morris said.

Tuesday’s meeting was marred by a heavy storm that flooded parts of Mid-City and created traffic jams along some major roads. Ray Kern, resident, wanted to know what amendments would improve drainage – especially given other proposals that add density to neighborhoods.

Article 28 of the city’s Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance requires facilities with more than 5,000 square feet of impermeable surfaces to come under stormwater regulations during renovations, city staff said. Any new developments must contain a certain amount of permeable surface to prevent draining issues, so over time the runoff rates should decrease.

Other than improving permeable ground, greenspaces are key to good drainage. Keith Hardy, with NOLA Parks for All, outlined the organization’s proposals to keep the current greenspace while adding even more across the city.

“We’re going to get more density in New Orleans, absent another Katrina-like event,” he said. “And if that’s going to happen, we’re going to need more parks.”

Parks for All proposed several amendments to the Master Plan targeted at preventing any park loss while controlling greenspace conversions in the future. The group also wants to unify all park systems into one umbrella organization and require each park to develop its own Master Plan.

Hardy also recommended fully funding parks through millage so “park administrators don’t feel like they need to build up to earn money.”

Guidry applauded the newest greenspaces around the city, including the Lafitte Greenway and Crescent City park.

“We have created greenspace in a 300-year-old city, and that’s pretty darn good,” Guidry said.

The city’s 20-year plan was adopted in 2010 and allows City Planning staff to propose changes every one to five years. The plan outlines goals for the physical development of the city and consists of stated goals and policies. Proposed amendments were submitted in September by councilmembers, city staff and advocacy groups.

This year, there are 102 applications to amend the text of Master Plan, 219 applications to amend the Future Land Use Maps and also amendments to change the Future Land Use categories themselves.

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