Interest in riverfront rezoning loses steam, though planning director and BREC hope to create new parks zoning district

When controversy erupted last summer over a proposed barge cleaning facility on River Road that was to be located near a residential neighborhood and a BREC park, Planning Director Frank Duke suggested the city-parish should reexamine the zoning all along the riverfront, most of which is M2, or heavy industrial. But more than four months later, no changes have been proposed by the Metro Council or property owners in the area.

“I think it should be done but I don’t get to make that change,” Duke says. “That call would have to be done by either the Metro Council or the property owners. I’ve done all that I can do, which is to identify the issue.”

One neighborhood in particular, College Park, sits within the industrially zoned area. Houses there were developed before current zoning regulations, adopted in the 1980s, prohibited residential development in areas zoned industrial. It’s a problem that needs to be corrected, not in the least because having houses in an M2 area constitutes what is known as a nonconforming use. If any of the houses burned, for instance, or if residents needed to get a permit to rebuild or renovate they would not be able to because of the zoning restrictions.

“It needs to be corrected,” Duke says. “But if the property owners and council members are not bothered by it, oh well.”

Another potential trouble spot along the riverfront is BREC’s Farr Park Equestrian Center, which sits across from where the proposed barge cleaning facility was to have been located. It, too, is in an industrially zoned area. Duke is hoping to create a new zoning district that would specifically apply to parks in the city-parish—not only Farr Park but all BREC parks. He has met with BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight to discuss the new zoning district and her staff is working on drafting the language.

“We have to identify what kind of uses are appropriate for parks and make sure and include that because if you don’t include it it is automatically excluded,” Duke says. “It’s not a simple matter and it takes time. Her staff is working on it—the ball is in their court.”

Duke says he doesn’t have a time frame for when the new parks zoning district might be ready to present to the Planning Commission and Metro Council for approval.

—Stephanie Riegel

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