Susan Guidry couldn’t win.
The New Orleans City Council member was shot down again Thursday in her attempt to create an interim zoning district along Maple Street that would prohibit alcohol sales and live entertainment at restaurants that don’t already have conditional-use permits allowing them.
On top of that, she drew no support for a call to block a possibly illegal zoning change elsewhere in her district.
It’s extremely unusual for council members to vote against a district member on a zoning issue in his or her district. It happened twice to Guidry, the District A representative, on Thursday.
The 3-2 vote rejecting Guidry’s proposed Maple Area Use Restriction Interim Zoning District came two weeks after the council rebuffed a nearly identical request from her. Nadine Ramsey and Jared Brossett voted against it. LaToya Cantrell and Jason Williams supported her, but with Stacy Head and James Gray absent, the measure did not have the four votes required to pass.
Guidry’s proposed IZD would have run from Lowerline Street to South Carrollton Avenue and would have made alcohol sales and live entertainment so-called conditional uses in standard restaurants.
The city’s longtime zoning law made sale of alcohol a conditional use — one requiring specific approval by the council — at most standard restaurants citywide and prohibited live entertainment at such establishments.
However, the city’s new comprehensive zoning ordinance, which goes into effect Wednesday, allows both of those activities by right.
Guidry has argued repeatedly that Maple Street needs special zoning protection to ensure it doesn’t revert to the hangout for underage drinkers, loud parties and unruly behavior that she says it was when she took office in 2010. She says she has spent the past five years cleaning up the neighborhood.
Guidry introduced a nearly identical measure at a council meeting in July. It also failed.
The issue has divided Maple Street-area residents and businesses. The neighborhood’s business association and some residents are opposed to the new restrictions, while the main residential group, Maple Area Residents Inc., supports Guidry’s position.
Guidry said the IZD would have served as a stopgap until the council could consider the permanent solution of amending the new CZO to create an overlay district along that stretch of Maple Street.
The overlay measure, too, suffered a blow recently when the City Planning Commission voted to oppose it. Commission members said the overlay would undermine the purpose of the new CZO, which is intended to make zoning consistent, uniform and predictable citywide.
The overlay proposal will go before the council Aug. 20.
With neither the IZD nor the overlay in place when the new CZO goes into effect next week, Guidry said, 10 existing restaurants on Maple will gain the right to begin offering live music, and anyone who applies for a restaurant license will be able to offer both live music and alcohol.
Meanwhile, on the other issue in her district, Guidry was the only council member to vote against changing the zoning of a piece of property adjacent to Mizado’s restaurant on Pontchartrain Boulevard to allow the restaurant’s owner to build a parking lot.
Guidry said she could not support the request because it would violate the city’s master plan, and she has been consistent in opposing such requests.
The City Charter says the council cannot take any actions that violate the master plan.
However, the council approved the zoning change 4-1, with Head and Gray absent.
Cantrell, Williams and Brossett said denying the zoning change would amount to putting an unnecessary burden on a business. They all said their votes did not indicate a disregard for Guidry’s expertise in her own district.
The City Planning Commission staff had recommended denial of the request, saying it was inconsistent with the master plan and not in keeping with the historic use of the site. The commission voted 4-1 to endorse its staff’s position.
Williams said businesses will cease to operate in New Orleans if government gets in the way of their attempts to grow.