The city’s much-touted One Stop Shop for adjudication of housing and zoning code violations stirred to life Friday, ending a year in which non-blight code enforcement all but ceased.
The 2 ½-hour meeting on the seventh floor of City Hall was the first since the Department of Safety and Permits merged its adjudication processes with those of three city agencies: the Historic District Landmarks, City Planning and Vieux Carre commissions — under the One Stop Shop banner which was raised aloft in March.
The Lens has been asking city officials for months why adjudication was dormant and when it would resume. Officials had provided no answer and Friday’s session was not advertised publicly.
Several cases of demolition by neglect made the meeting’s 11-item agenda as did unfinished building projects, notable among them the property that houses The Spotted Cat nightclub.
Other concerns ranged from illegal short-term rentals, to a residence allegedly being operated illegally as a boarding house — plus the inevitable paved front yard.
The case of the paved front yard drew the biggest crowd: three neighbors and a representative of the neighborhood organization.
Adrian Illies, owner of the property at 1530 Washington Ave. claimed the traffic congestion on his street necessitated turning his front yard into a parking lot. He said delivery trucks and tour guides for the nearby cemetery were parking on the city-owned strip of land between the sidewalk and the street, leaving him no choice.
Shelley Landrieu, executive director of the Garden District Association, told Illies that neighborhood group appreciates that he has been working on the house for some time. But “we need to maintain the green space in the Garden District,” she said of a paving job well in excess of the 40 percent maximum allowed in such a space.
Illies argued that “the area looks better and cleaner” now that he has paved it. “I will pay a fine if I have to,” he said.
And indeed he will — once he also digs up the illegal paving job.
Greg Collins, the hearing officer for the case, slapped Illies with a $150 fine plus a $75 hearing cost.
Both the fine and the hearing cost must be paid within 30 days of jackhammering the paving.
Illies said he plans to appeal and, in a parting shot, waved his arm toward the audience and warned that he is going to report unspecified code violations on his neighbors’ properties.
The owner of the alleged boarding house operating in an Abundance Street residence dismissed the complaint as a neighborhood beef. If it isn’t the neighbors complaining, he mused, then maybe it’s the nearby Waffle House looking to expand their parking lot.
The case was continued for 30 days.
Cited for stalled work on an exterior balcony, Spotted Cat owner James Gibeault said he had been waiting a year for a nod of approval from City Hall on plans he had tweaked and resubmitted in discussions with them.
He was told to proceed with the plans.
The owner of a residence cited as an illegal short-term rental failed to show up and was declared guilty. Cases involving demolition by neglect were either slapped with fines or postponed.
As for the overly tall fence mentioned in yesterday’s article, owner Jay Pennington said he would be happy to oblige code enforcers by trimming the fence down to the 7-foot height limit.