Officials will re-evaluate plans for a new East Jefferson Levee District headquarters in Kenner after hearing opposition from residents worried that the project would create problems for neighbors and for mourners at nearby historic cemeteries.
The new building is planned for an area of south Kenner next to two traditionally African-American burial grounds, the Love and Charity and Belle Grove cemeteries. Neighbors said the plan, which would cover several blocks and shut down at least two streets, would create havoc with funeral processions.
Combined with the noise, heavy equipment and materials such as sand piles planned for the site, those fears caused several dozen residents to voice their concerns at a meeting Thursday of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, which oversees the levee district.
“We’re asking for respect. We’re asking for the will and wishes of the people to be heard, approved and acted on,” resident James Evans said.
The authority agreed to send plans for the new headquarters to a committee for review. That committee will include Flood Protection Authority President Stephen Estopinal, Commissioner Wilton “Paul” Tilly, Regional Director Bob Turner, East Jefferson Levee District Executive Director Fran Campbell and a resident of the community, the Rev. Robert Tanner.
“I’m going to be a member of that committee, and I’m going to urge very strongly we do not purchase these streets,” Estopinal said.
Plans for the new headquarters have been under discussion for years, as the levee district has sought to consolidate facilities that now are scattered throughout the parish. Initial plans would have shut down four streets in the area, though the current proposal calls for purchasing and closing only Alton Street and Warren Street.
Levee district officials said other features of the project, including a parking lot that could be used by those attending funerals, would mitigate its impact.
But opponents of the plan said the current setup, which sees mourners parking on the streets, has not caused problems, and they complained that a traffic study conducted for the project looked at only a single funeral in the area.
While traffic and the street closings were the focus of residents’ concerns, some also argued the project would not fit with nearby neighborhoods. Current plans call for sand and other materials to be stored on the site, though officials said they would look into alternative locations for storage.
Kenner City Councilman Gregory Carroll, who represents the area, said the project goes against the wishes of the community and is insensitive to those whose loved ones are buried in the cemeteries nearby.
“You’re spending money for something we don’t want,” Carroll said.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.