When Mandeville was founded 181 years ago, founder Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville did something unusual. He took the city’s best attribute — a 1.5-mile section of Lake Pontchartrain shoreline — and decreed that it would be set aside for public use forever.
Nearly two centuries later, however, the public use of that land is a frequent source of tension between those who want to use it and those who live in the high-dollar homes that line Lakeshore Drive.
The nearby residents complain about the trash, traffic and noise that often come with the lakefront’s popularity. Many also worry about the health of the lakefront’s massive live oak trees and grassy areas.
Thursday night, the Mandeville City Council moved to address some of those concerns when it voted 3-1 to restrict special events within the city to four locales, in the process taking some sections of the lakefront out of eligibility for use.
Councilman David Ellis was the only member to oppose the measure. Councilwoman Carla Buchholz was absent, but she had a statement opposing the measure read into the record.
The ordinance, proposed by Councilman Rick Danielson, requires that groups that want to have special events in Mandeville be restricted to four spots, two of which are on the lakefront: the harbor and the space between Girod Street and Ravine aux Coquille.
The other two spots for special events will be Sunset Point and the Mandeville Trailhead. The former is on the lake but not along Lakeshore Drive, and the Trailhead is several blocks from the lake.
Danielson said his ordinance was geared toward making sure the lakefront is preserved and protected for generations to come.
But some residents, mainly those affiliated with the Mandeville Family Reunion, an annual event held among the oak trees just west of Ravine aux Coquille, weren’t buying it.
“I beg you to take this off the agenda,” said Tracy Frazier-Elsensohn, kicking off more than two hours of debate on the ordinance and accompanying amendments. “We don’t want Sunset Point or the Trailhead. Those were not here when we grew up here. Why take from us our heritage?”
Frazier-Elsensohn’s sentiments were echoed by several other speakers.
Some held up placards, including Mayor Donald Villere, who urged the council not to eliminate parts of the lakefront from holding special events.
Guy Stacy, who chairs the city’s Special Events Committee, also urged the council to withdraw the ordinance and consider several recommendations his committee had made that he said would make the ban unnecessary.
But not all the feedback was negative.
Ren Clark, who lives in Old Mandeville, said the ordinance was a good move. “I approve of what you are doing. It’s managing a resource,” he told the council.
Trilby Lenfant, a onetime councilwoman and mayoral candidate, also lauded Danielson for his proposal.
“It’s only logical that you would want to preserve” the lakefront, she said.
The council approved an amendment to shift the area of the lakefront between Girod Street and Ravine aux Coquille open to special events slightly to the west. It passed with no dissent.
A second proposed amendment, a move by Councilman Ernest Burguières to prohibit amplified music on the lakefront, was withdrawn after a lengthy discussion about the amendment’s wording and possible exceptions.
Before the council voted, Danielson apologized for the charged emotional nature of the debate. But he lauded the passion showed by both sides in the debate.
“The lakefront has always been for everybody. Let’s make sure it stays that way,” he said.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.