City bulldozes Gert Town neighborhood pool but without securing committee's OK

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Workers on Monday prepare to haul off the demolished dome that once covered the Gert Town Pool. Photo by Karen Gadbois

By Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writer |

Ignoring a committee’s request for more information about redevelopment plans,  the Landrieu administration on Monday bulldozed the Gert Town Pool.

The pool, housed within a distinctive geodesic dome, was owned and, until Katrina, operated by the city on property owned by Xavier University.

Xavier representatives were not in attendance at the August 15th bi-monthly meeting of the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee, which handles demolition requests in a large swath of the city. And so the committee voted to defer the issue until the next meeting to allow time for Xavier to produce plans for the site, a common requirement when a permit for demolition is sought.

Mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni defended the decision to ignore the committee, citing city code: “As a single-story, neither residential nor commercial accessory structure, Gert Town pool was demolished under Chapter 26-8(b) of the Municipal Code of the City of New Orleans.”

Upon closer inspection of the code it would seem that the administration was using an exemption that allows for non-reviewed demolition of back yard sheds and garages – but not commercial structures clearly visible from the street. The code defining the exemption states that it applies to: “Single-story structures that are not visible from the public right-of-way and/or not used for residential or commercial space.”

Berni did not explain why the city had not seen fit to invoke the code when it was unsuccessfully seeking permission from the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee to proceed directly to demolition.

The meeting agenda for the September 6 Neighborhood Conservation District Committee included the pool on its agenda.

A spokesman for Xavier had earlier responded to a request from The Lens saying the site would be part of the new Convocation Center and would either be a parking lot, tennis court or green space.

 

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