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City council criticizes Safety and Permits process

  While addressing an otherwise-typical zoning change request for a nail salon on South Carrollton Avenue, New Orleans City Council members paused their Aug. 8 meeting — to call for a deputy mayor to explain why the Department of Safety and Permits doesn't inform council members when it issues permits to businesses with proposed zoning changes still pending before the council. Ordinarily, council members say, permits should not be issued until the zoning allows the proposed use of the property.

  Department director Jared Munster took a verbal beating from councilmembers, including District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who said she regularly hears from neighborhood organizations that say they don't trust the department for that reason. Council President Jackie Clarkson threatened to introduce an ordinance that would require the department to notify the council of all approved permits prior to zoning-change applicants' appearances before the council, but she noted that could slow down the process. District A Councilmember Susan Guidry said the nail salon received its permits before the council even voted on the proposed zoning change.

  "This has been the prevailing mode of how they operate since [Hurricane] Katrina," said District D Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. Morrell was the lone "nay" vote on the nail salon's zoning change. — Alex Woodward

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