Land Use

Property owner continues fight for paving, despite rejection, citation

A contentious case of a zoning violation for illegal parking became even more contentious this week at a city hearing when the property owner accused the city of selective enforcement, driven by preservationists.

After some verbal sparring, the city hearing officer put off any decision on the apartment complex at the corner of Prytania and Constantinople streets for three months. Likewise, the hearing officer delayed action on six other cases involving the illegal paving of yards to accommodate parking.

The discussions took place at the regular administrative hearings on zoning and code-enforcement violations, called One Stop hearings by the city.

At issue this week was the post-Katrina paving of a front and side yard on Prytania, which took place without permission. Part of the concrete has been removed, but some remains.

Illegal paving can cause drainage and flooding problems for neighbors, which is one reason why permission is required.

Attorney Joel Loeffelholz and his client, property owner Henry Rosenblat, appeared before hearing officer Lee Phillips.

Loeffelholz said no one parks on the side pavement, but he asked that it be allowed to remain. However, two cars were parked in that area the day before the hearing.

The city filed suit against the property owner regarding his unwillingness to remove the concrete. Loeffelholz said a decision by Phillips would be inappropriate because the case is pending in Civil District Court.

Loeffelholz cited “preservationists and people like that ” as the source of the complaints and asked Phillips why the city is going after his client.

Phillips pointed out at least six other properties on the agenda for the same violation, and he suggested the city was pursuing cases in which property owners are ignoring the decisions of other government boards. The Board of Zoning Adjustments had already denied a request by Rosenblat to keep the pavement.

Phillips said Loeffelholz didn’t provide a copy of the lawsuit, so Phillips couldn’t determine whether it was the same case. But out of caution, Phillips delayed the administrative hearing 90 days.

City attorney Christy Harowski made it clear what the choices are for this particular property owner: “You can agree to take up the paving and not park there, or go to court.”

Loeffelholz chose court.

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About 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 to guilty pleas in federal court. Her work attracted some of journalism's highest honors, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.

  • TimGNO

    The day before his trial, I may go pave the judge’s flower beds. Good luck, sir, at trial. A trial which you will surely (and deservedly) lose.

  • Owen Courrèges

    It’s worth mentioning that not only do these types of illegal paving projects cause drainage problems, but they illegally take a public good, street parking, and convert it to a private good. This is different from just putting in a driveway; a driveway only generally takes up one spot and provides multiple spaces for residents (ultimately freeing up more public parking). However, when an owner of an apartment building paves over a side yard, all he’s doing stealing several street parking spaces without any corresponding public good. It’s really analogous to theft.

  • Moses

    “For action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” No question that storm drainage issues take precedence. But look what happens as a consequence: You have dumped that many more cars on the street (where they belong) and suddenly you may not be able to park within a block of your own residence, may two or three blocks away, if at all. Security issues then become a concern. Lack of street lighting becomes an even greater concern. Greater use of public transportation has to be encouraged along with a robust route system if we are to give up the second car in a household.

    In effect, this issue can be seen as a way to unify all of these concerns. I believe the Mayor sees this on global basis – can we get the City agencies to address these issues with a sense of urgency?