An Uptown bed-and-breakfast can expand to include a restaurant, the City Council has ruled, overturning the recommendation of the City Planning Commission.
The zoning change needed for the expansion was opposed by several neighborhood organizations.
Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, whose district includes the Prytania Street business, said she moved to overrule the commission because the request is consistent with the new comprehensive zoning ordinance that the council is expected to approve next month.
“This business is a hotel,” Cantrell said. “Hotels have and operate restaurants.”
The council’s vote Thursday was 4-2, with Stacy Head and Susan Guidry opposed. James Gray was absent.
Faoud Zeton, who owns the Magnolia Mansion, also known as the Harris-McGinnis House, at 2127 Prytania St. was seeking a zoning change from multiple-family residential to general commercial to accommodate a restaurant. Restaurants are not allowed under the site’s current zoning.
Bed-and-breakfasts normally are able to offer their guests only continental breakfasts.
The mansion is at the corner of Jackson Avenue and Prytania Street, facing Prytania. It is the only property along its block of Jackson not zoned general commercial.
The planning commission’s staff recommended approval of the zoning change, noting the site’s location on Jackson and the proposal’s consistency with the master plan. But the commission itself rejected the idea 6-2, with some members expressing concern that a zoning change would allow for a wide range of future uses if the property is sold. Parking lots, garages, gas stations and fast-food restaurants all can be built in areas zoned general commercial.
That was the thrust of the opposition from several people who live nearby.
Pauline Hardin, president of the Garden District Association, said allowing the zoning change would show “poor vision and poor planning” on the council’s part.
“Just because they’re requesting a restaurant today … doesn’t mean that’s all we have to look at,” Hardin said. “The list of what this property could be used as in the future is very lengthy, and that is what we are opposed to.”
But Michael Bagneris, an attorney for Zeton, said those concerns were overblown because commercial businesses already exist in the same block as the mansion.
“You can’t have creeping commercialism if everybody on that block is (commercial) except for his property,” Bagneris said.
Cantrell also was not sympathetic to the neighborhood groups’ arguments because she said they weren’t raised during the many meetings to draft the new zoning law, which would allow the zoning that the mansion is requesting.
“This corridor was never mentioned by the community — that there was an issue with the CZO,” Cantrell said. “Once the owner requested a change, it has since grown to be a very contentious matter in the neighborhood.”
Cantrell said the property has never been reported as a nuisance to her office or to the 6th District police station while she has represented District B on the council.
Still, as a compromise, she said she would refrain from introducing the ordinance giving legal effect to Thursday’s vote until Zeton and the neighbors can work out a “good neighbor agreement.”