In January 2023, the words: “Parkway and Park Commission” were taped over the sign entering West End Lakeshore Park. Rather than place the option on an agenda to the park back in the City of New Orleans’ Park and Parkways Budget, elected and appointed officials are “covering-up” this option to push development in the park of four Full-Service Bars with three additional floors of livable space. In April 2022, one West End Marina Commissioner proposed eleven Short-Term-Rentals.
This is the eleventh article in The Hayride since April 2022 on how elected officials have been methodically changing a series of local and state laws to allow government funded commercialization and housing in West End Park. The first article details how elected officials were ignoring the financial math, environmental science, and wildlife to put an “Entertainment District” and housing development in a Wildlife Sanctuary.
MARSALA: New Orleans Pols’ West End Plan Ignores Science, Math, And Wildlife (thehayride.com)
Articles in September 2022 further explained the decade-long development of the park process as:
MARSALA: New Orleans’ West End Is A Train Wreck in Slow Motion (thehayride.com)
MARSALA: We Can’t Keep Expanding New Orleans’ Disasters (thehayride.com)
The result was by November residents were alerted and organizing to stop the potential damage to their neighborhood, the park, and the environment. A website www.RetifPark.org was built and contained the legal documents, videos, and ordinances protecting the park and New Orleans City legislation from 2015 that changed 4.3 acres of the park into Mixed-Use.
In June 2022, State Act 209 of 1906 was discovered that restricted use of the park to “a public park or amusement park.” That discovery and the confirming opinion of its validity by the Governor’s office stopped local politicians earlier claims of going out to bid and beginning the development of the park in 2022.
As word spread via Hayride Articles a citizens coalition formed to oppose developing the park.
MARSALA: Big Coalition Unites To Save NOLA’s West End Lake Shore Park (thehayride.com)
By December 2022, residents had put pressure on Council Member Joseph Giarrusso and State Rep Stephanie Hilferty to meet with approximately fifty residents. Over 85% attending opposed the marina development plans in the Jefferson Parish- New Orleans 2021 CEA. Concerns over noise, public safety, lack of adequate roads for increased traffic, current lack of sufficient water pressure, current sewer line problems, water-line leaks, and destroying the bird sanctuary which includes a Pelican Colony were expressed.
Council Member Joe Giarrusso agreed Sewage and Water at West End must be improved before adding Bars – YouTube
The simple argument to return the park into the city’s park budget to have funding for grass cutting and tree trimming was offered but declined. The 2021 Federal Infrastructure Act contains 3-to-1 matching for Environmental Projects on Lake Pontchartrain. The current MYHMC Board, chaired by former Fire Chief Tim McConnell has elected not to pursue this option.
MARSALA: Residents Oppose Developing West End Lake Shore Park (thehayride.com)
In October a form was filed with the New Orleans Planning Commission requesting that the 4-acres that were re-zoned to “Mixed-use” during former Council Member Susan Guidry’s term be returned to “Park.”
In January, Council Member Eugene Green held a town meeting with residents of four civic organizations along the lake over the City’s Short Term Rental problems and recent legal loss in court. Short-term-Rentals are destroying New Orleans neighborhoods.
At that meeting Susan Guidry offered a view opposing her prior action as a council member that changed the zoning in 2015 and converted “Park” to “Mixed Use” in West End Park. She offered that residents should be able to keep the zoning that the government originally gave or “promised” them.
Susan Guidry on Retaining Zoning – YouTube
Having the 4-acres returned to “Park” designation as opposed to the retaining the current “Mixed-Use” designation would protect Marina residents from the widespread Short-term-Rental problems going on in other parts of New Orleans. New Orleans may have violated state law in the way the park land was converted to “Mixed-Use.”
West End Lakeshore Park became a New Orleans Park in 1906 and had been in the city’s parks’ budget for decades and likely more than a century before it was removed approximately fifteen years ago.
At the City Council January 2023 Quality of Life Committee, Director of Parks and Parkways Michael Karam’s report included plans to add more than five new parks in New Orleans, however 20-acre West End Park is not included to be returned to the city’s $10 million parks’ budget which cares for 20,000 acres of parks.
Marina residents were advised in December 2022 by Council Member Joseph Giarrusso that the park had been removed from the City of New Orleans’ Budget even though Marina residents voted in 2019 for the “Parks for All” property tax increase, which adds a million dollars a year to the parks budget.
In January, Council Member Giarrusso, who is Chair of the City’s Budget Committee, offered to add additional funding to A.L. Lewis Park from the city’s recent $300 Million dollar bond. Giarrusso has been asked to place West End Park in the City’s Park’s Budget. Those funds could likely qualify for being multiplied four times with the Federal Government’s 3-to-1 matching program.
The February MYHMC meeting was moved up to 5pm on Valentine’s Day. At that meeting, it was announced that State Rep Hilferty will seek to amend the 117-year-old agreement which created West End Park to allow for commercial development. Due to the timing, less than ten residents were able to attend, still 70-80% of those attending opposed the commercial development and re-zoning of the West End Park.
Efforts are underway to defeat Hilferty’s Development Bill in the upcoming legislative session.