A proposal to change the definition of “hotel/motel” in the new comprehensive zoning ordinance to allow all hotels to offer condominium units split the New Orleans City Planning Commission on Tuesday.
The commission divided 4-4 on a motion to accept its staff’s recommendation of denial for the proposed ordinance, which is sponsored by City Councilman Jared Brossett. The matter therefore will go to the council without a recommendation from the commission.
The proposed amendment would expand the definition of “hotel/motel” to say that all hotels “shall be permitted to include units for sale designed or used exclusively for permanent residential use.”
Supporters of the change said Tuesday that it would increase the local housing stock and, by extension, improve housing affordability.
Shaun Mena said the amendment also would support “smart growth.”
“What’s wrong with a nurse being able to have an affordable condo near where she works?” Mena said. “We have a need for more housing in our city, in particular a need for more affordable housing.”
The change was opposed by the Planning Commission staff because it would have the effect of permitting residences in districts where they are now banned.
The CZO allows for hotels in 26 of the city’s zoning categories. Mixed-use residential developments also are allowed in 21 of those districts. In the other five, hotels are allowed but residences are prohibited. Those categories are heavy industrial, light industrial, maritime industrial, business industrial park and medical service.
“The CZO is intended to create clear definitions for distinct uses,” the planning staff said in its report. “A modification to the current ‘hotel/motel’ definition detracts from this objective.”
The staff report suggested that instead of changing the definition of “hotel” to allow residences by right, a definition for a new use, “hotel residences,” could be created as a conditional-use option in all 26 zoning categories that allow hotels.
Commissioner Robert Steeg, who offered a motion in support of the staff’s recommendation, said the proposed amendment is too broad.
“I think this is too blunt an instrument to achieve what the proponents are trying to achieve,” Steeg said. “I feel that this amendment doesn’t allow for discussion of the subtleties among the five remaining districts.”
He was supported by Commissioners Kelly Brown, Alexandra Mora and Chris Allen.
Other commissioners, however, said they believed residences are an acceptable use inside a hotel, just like restaurants and retail shops. Nolan Marshall said it didn’t make sense for the city’s zoning law to allow visitors to stay somewhere but to forbid residents the same opportunity.
Joining Marshall in support of Brossett’s proposal were Craig Mitchell, Royce Duplessis and Kyle Wedberg.
Commissioner Pamela Bryan was absent.