Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 9, 2015

LA Appeals Court Holds Trial Court did not Abuse its Discretion When it Failed to Address Unconstitutional Spot Zoning Issue

On November 13, 2013, the Central Business District Historic District Landmarks Commission (“CBDHDLC”) approved the planning and design of a sixteen story, multi-use, residential building, to be located at 1100 Annunciation Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, hereinafter referred to as “the Tracage Project.” On November 22, 2013, plaintiffs filed an appeal with the New Orleans City Council, which on January 9, 2014 voted unanimously to approve the CBDHDLC’s conceptual approval of the Tracage Project and denied plaintiffs’ appeal. Plaintiffs then filed a petition against the City of New Orleans (“the City”) and the CBDHDLC requesting a judicial review, declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and request for stay arguing that the City Council acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its denial of the appeal. Plaintiffs/Appellants, Lengsfield Lofts Condominium Owners’ Association, Inc., Joshua Rubenstein, Russ Herman, and Sandra Herman, appealed the trial court’s denial of their request for a preliminary injunction.

The court first discussed that record evidenced the fact that the City Council conducted a thorough analysis in finding that the project was rational and within the discretion of the HDLC and CDBHDLC. Accordingly, it found no merit in plaintiffs’ argument that the CBDHDLC and City Council acted arbitrarily and capriciously in approving the Tracage Project. As to the issue of the unconstitutional spot zoning, the City argues that the City Council granted the Tracage project a conditional use permit in 2006 for the construction of a twenty-four floor building, and that this permit allowed the Tracage site to be “grandfathered” in prior to the City Council’s limiting the building height in the Warehouse District in 2012. The Executive Director of the City Planning Commission testified that there were two categories of properties not subject to the 2012 Interim Zoning (“IZD”) limited building heights in the Warehouse District. The two categories of properties not subject to the 2012 IZD restrictions are (1) projects that had previously received the City’s approval before the IZD and (2) public spaces, including parks and neutral grounds. Because the Tracage Project had been previously approved by the City Council, it fell into that category and was therefore not spot zoning. The court accordingly affirmed the judgment of the trial court, which denied the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction.

Herman v City of New Orleans, 2015 WL 268498 (LA. App. 1/21/2015)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/la-court-of-appeal/1690219.html


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