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Advocate photo by SOPHIA GERMER -- French Quarter galleries with plants and flags, line the sides of Royal street in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Monday June 6, 2016. A new city policy will be charging French Quarter property owners for features that overhang the sidewalks.

The city will stop charging property owners for historic balconies, porches, stoops and other architectural features that overhang city sidewalks, officials of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration told a City Council committee Thursday.

The city will continue to require that an owner who wants to build a new feature that encroaches onto city property must enter into a lease with the city, Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Hebert said.

In recent years, the city has stepped up efforts to charge residents for those structures, requiring anyone whose building encroaches on a sidewalk or the air above it to agree to lease that space when they request a permit to do any work on the property.

That meant many property owners were forced to sign expensive leases for features that had always been a part of their buildings and that, in many cases, they had to retain under historic preservation guidelines.

Under the new policy, such features on buildings within the city’s historic preservation districts will automatically be exempted from having to pay the city for the use of its space. Existing features on properties outside those boundaries will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, Hebert said.

Owners seeking to add new balconies or other elements will be charged for the use of city air space, though Hebert said that waivers could be granted in cases where a building is required to have such features to meet architectural guidelines of the city’s historic districts.

Hebert said the city will refund deposits for leases the city already has concluded.

The neighborhoods covered by the new exemption include the French Quarter and all historic districts regulated by the Historic District Landmarks Commission, including parts of the Central Business District. 

Those neighborhoods include most areas where houses are built to the front property line and where balconies, stoops or other features are likely to intrude on the city's air space.

The City Council will be asked to pass an ordinance making the new policy official.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.​