Construction of a reception hall was already under way when city officials rescinded permission to build. Photo by Karen Gadbois.

By Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writer |

An after-the-fact request for a zoning change pitted cousin against cousin this week at the City Planning Commission meeting.

The property is in the middle of the 2000 block of Felicity Street.

According to developer Earl Myers, in December 2010 the city Department of Safety and Permits issued him a permit for commercial renovation of his Central City property, a former auto repair shop in the 2000 block of Felicity Street.

Myers had begun building a reception hall when, in September, Safety and Permits revoked the permit. The site had lost its legal non-conforming status when the repair shop shut down in 1992, Safety and Permits now said. That made the intended use out of sync with the area’s residential zoning.

Kee Investments is the owner of the property and made the request for the zoning change in order to finish construction of the imposing metal-framed building that stands partially completed on the site. Earl Myers is listed as the company’s officer.

The request was for a change from RM-4 multi-family residential to C-1 general commercial district, which would have allowed for the reception hall.

Myers seemed taken by surprise when a small coalition of neighbors rose to speak against the development.

“If I knew there was a neighborhood organization, I would have joined,” said Myers after Wanda Myers, the developer’s cousin, spoke out against him. Wanda Myers said she and her neighbors were opposed because “spot zoning is not a good idea for the area.”

The city planning staff recommended denial. “Most of the uses permitted in a C-1 are too intense in terms of the level of their noise, their vehicular activity, their lighting, signage and other design characteristics,” planning staffers said.

Planning Commissioner Lou Volz cited issues with Safety and Permits issuing permits in error and suggested that the errors extend beyond the purview of the city planning department.

Volz moved to deny the zoning change and the commission agreed in a unanimous vote.

Efforts to contact Earl Myers to determine whether he plans an appeal to the City Council were unsuccessful.

Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led...