April 08, 2021 10:00 AM
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NEW ORLEANS - At today’s regular meeting, the New Orleans City Council adopted a resolution backing efforts at the state level to decriminalize marijuana possession, passed an ordinance to facilitate the rehabilitation of the old Veterans Affairs (VA) building, authorized the expansion of a significant green infrastructure project in the Lower Ninth Ward, and opposed construction of the proposed Formosa Plastics Plant.
Additionally, the Council established a new Algiers Riverfront Overlay District, approved a zoning measure to permit the first Chick-fil-A in Orleans Parish, and praised the team at Second Harvest Food Bank for their ongoing efforts to keep food flowing to those most in need throughout COVID-19.
Council Supports Decriminalization of Marijuana
The Council adopted Resolution R-21-124 in support of HB 243, filed by Louisiana State Representative Candace N. Newell, to provide for the decriminalization of marijuana possession and distribution. According to the Tax Foundation, 16 states have already legalized recreational marijuana, 12 of which impose taxes to generate additional revenue streams. Legislation has already been filed in Louisiana with bipartisan support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers in response to increased calls for legalization.
Recent public polling shows expansive support for decriminalization in Louisiana, which has resulted in widespread bipartisan support. A recent study showed Black individuals are 3.4 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession in Louisiana, despite comparable national marijuana usage rates. Louisiana was among 17 states where arrests for marijuana possession increased from 2010 to 2018, with arrests increasing by more than 18.1%.
Other state polls found that 68% of respondents did not believe using and/or possessing marijuana should be illegal (a rise from 59% in a similar 2020 poll). When asked if, instead of criminal penalties for marijuana possession, an individual only had to pay a fine, only 27% of respondents preferred modification to marijuana laws instead of full legalization of marijuana.
First Chick-fil-A in Orleans Parish to Open on West Bank
With its approval of Motion M-21-23, the Council permitted the future site of the first Chick-fil-A in Orleans Parish within the Algiers Plaza Shopping Center at the intersection of General De Gaulle and Holiday Drives.
The proposed fast-food restaurant would replace a currently vacant portion of the retail building, bringing with it increased traffic and revenue to the area. Given its location within a shopping center that contains multiple big box stores and restaurants and at an intersection of two majors corridors in an area generally zoned for heavy commercial uses, the site should easily accommodate the anticipated increase in activity.
The Chick-fil-A will face General De Gaulle Drive adjacent to Walgreen’s pharmacy, with drive-thru facilities wrapping along the building’s sides and rear.
Councilmembers Unanimously Oppose Construction of Formosa Plastics Plant
The Council adopted Resolution R-21-92, supporting governmental action to address disproportionate health outcomes in communities of color by opposing the construction of Formosa Plastics and any industrial or petrochemical plant capable of producing toxic emissions.
In 2018, Taiwanese-based conglomerate Formosa Plastics announced plans to build a $12B petrochemical complex in St. James Parish comprised of 14 separate facilities equating to the size of 80 football fields, becoming one of the largest plastic plants in the world. This complex would discharge into New Orleanians' primary drinking source, the Mississippi River, and into Lac des Allemands, a significant source of seafood for the entire state. This type of plastics production endangers our local wildlife, threatens massive pollution of our waterways and the prosperity of our seafood industry, which is essential to the food culture and tourism industry New Orleans relies upon. Not only has the overall safety of this plant been called into question on numerous occasions, but Formosa Plastics is estimated to omit 13.6M tons of greenhouse gas per year, further exacerbating local climate change.
The proposed petrochemical complex would be located in Cancer Alley, a strip of over 150 similar plants that disproportionately threaten the health of people of color throughout the River Parishes and has been condemned by United Nations experts as an example of environmental racism. In light of the many detriments outlined in the resolution and the submitted petition from 20 New Orleans businesses and thousands of residents calling upon local government to speak out against these potential impacts, the Council is urging all existing plants to take lifesaving measures toward reducing toxic emissions and asking both the Federal and State Governments to establish explicit guidelines for cross-jurisdictional clean-up efforts to address contamination of Louisiana waterways.
New Overlay District Approved to Guide Algiers Riverfront Development
Zoning Docket 3/21 authorizes a text amendment to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) to establish the Algiers Riverfront Overlay District and ensure heights, uses and designs are compatible with and preserve the integrity of the surrounding neighborhoods. The new restrictions outlined for the Overlay District will also serve as a safeguard against any detrimental impacts on the vicinity's historic properties.
Efforts to Rehabilitate Former VA Hospital Underway
The City of New Orleans is taking steps to bring new life into the old VA site downtown. To support these efforts, the Council passed Ordinance 33,283, authorizing a CEA between the City and the State of Louisiana (Office of Facility Planning and Control) to facilitate the building's rehabilitation. The approved CEA sets requirements, obligations, and procedures for all parties involved in this project's administration and oversight.
Photo of the old VA Hospital building on Gravier Street courtesy of NOLA.com
Second Harvest Recognized for Commitment to COVID-19 Food Relief
The Council adopted Resolution R-21-126, applauding Second Harvest Food Bank's tremendous efforts to keep food flowing to those most in need across the New Orleans area throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in New Orleans, Second Harvest increased its production from 1,000 prepared meals per day to 10,000, serving over 100,000 local families in need.
The organization has also served as an invaluable partner to each of the seven Council offices in helping to establish and co-host many neighborhood-based food pantries over the past year, which delivered millions of pounds of food and tens of thousands of meals to communities across New Orleans. As stated in the resolution, Councilmembers are ready and willing to assist Second Harvest in any way necessary, such as providing fundraising and volunteer support, to ensure its critical work can continue in the months ahead while citywide recovery efforts are underway.
To learn more or get involved, visit no-hunger.org.
City to Partner with Sankofa to Facilitate Significant Green Infrastructure Project
Via Ordinance 33,272, the Council authorized a CEA between the City and Sankofa Community Development to complete and maintain a green infrastructure project on a 40-acre site in District "E." In 2017, as part of its sustainability-related efforts, Sankofa launched a two-acre pilot project in the Lower Ninth Ward, which included the installation of bioswales, trees, and other vegetation. Following that pilot's success, the organization will expand the project through the construction of walking trails, maintenance paths, bio-retention ponds, and more.
This exciting endeavor will improve the surrounding drainage system, increase water runoff capacity in the neighborhood by storing stormwater overflow and reducing land subsidence, further support and enhance local wildlife, and serve as a model for future green infrastructure projects across New Orleans.
Chief of Staff
New Orleans City Council