Planning Commission staff recommends not selling Newcomb Blvd. to neighbors

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A City Planning Commission staff report released Tuesday recommends denying a proposal to sell city-owned Newcomb Boulevard to the street’s neighborhood association, saying the sale would unnecessarily block the street grid and would go against the city’s Master Plan for land use.

While it noted that city departments did not see a need to maintain the street as a public property, the Commission staff report found no compelling reason it should be private, either. The staff identified several drawbacks to the sale.

“The street forms an integral part of the city’s network of interconnected streets, which is supported by the goals and policies provided in the Transportation and Land Use elements of the Master Plan. As a result, the staff believes the proposal is inconsistent with the Plan for the 21st Century,” the staff report says.

The Planning Commission will consider the issue next week, and it could approve the request despite its staff’s recommendation.

The Newcomb Boulevard Association offered to purchase the public street from the city in order to maintain a fence on Freret Street. The association was authorized by former Department of Public Works Director John Shires to build the fence in 2006. But attorney Keith Hardie later successfully sued to force its removal, arguing that a private body cannot permanently block a public thoroughfare.

The city has failed to remove the fence in spite of a 2012 order by the Orleans Parish Civil District Court and a 2013 order by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, which both agreed with Hardie.

Newcomb Boulevard Association President Christian Rooney told Times-Picayune that residents do not intend to stop anyone from walking or parking on the street should the sale go through. He also said the street was originally designed and dedicated as a private street, one of several in the area.

The City Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposed sale Tuesday.

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