Thursday, September 6, 2012

City Council denies height variance for Cummings' Elisio Lofts project

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2012 at 4:08 PM

Developer Sean Cummings will be allowed to build his proposed Elisio Lofts residential-retail project at 501 Elysian Fields Ave., but if he still chooses to, it will have to be significantly scaled down, following a City Council vote this afternoon.

On the recommendation of District C Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who represents the neighborhood, council members unanimously voted to limit the project — which as designed would top out at 74 feet — to a maximum of 50 feet.

Elisio Lofts drew intense criticism from the neighborhood association, the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association (FMIA), whose primary objection was the height — 24 feet above what the district’s zoning allows — but the project was overwhelmingly approved by the City Planning Commission (CPC) on June 26.

In its accompanying report, the CPC cited the 2005 Riverfront Vision Plan’s recommendation that certain major roads, including Elysian Fields Avenue, could accommodate increased height maximums. The Riverfront Vision Plan has been incorporated into the current redraft of the city’s Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO), but, as FMIA members have repeatedly pointed out, a new CZO is yet to be adopted into city ordinance.

“I’m not comfortable with approving a project that would create a precedent for 75 feet,” Palmer said, criticizing the CPC for prematurely adopting the Riverfront Vision Plan’s height recommendation as a guideline.

“Until we get a handle on [zoning] enforcement … we have to rebuild trust,” with neighbors, Palmer said. “We’re still in that process.”

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