Rykert Toledano.jpeg

Rykert Toledano  

Members of the St. Tammany Parish Zoning Commission made it clear they still were not satisfied with a proposed events-venue ordinance when they tabled the proposal indefinitely at their Tuesday meeting.

The ordinance has been discussed since it was first proposed and sent to the commission by the St. Tammany Parish Council more than a year ago.

As originally introduced in January, 2018, the ordinance defined a reception venue as “an establishment providing space for meetings, receptions, or similar gatherings,” and provided for three size categories.

Small venues would have a capacity of no more than 150 people, medium venues could serve more than 150 and fewer than 500 people, and large venues would have a capacity of 500 or more.

Small venues could be located in NC-4 Neighborhood Institutional zoning districts, medium venues could be located in NC-6 Neighborhood Public, Cultural and Recreational districts, and large venues could be located in HC-2 Highway Commercial Districts.

Over the ensuing months, the ordinance was modified to require NC-5 Retail and Service District zoning for small venues, HC-1 Highway Commercial zoning for medium venues, and HC-2 Highway Commercial for large venues.

After numerous speakers at public hearings voiced opposition to locating event venues in neighborhood districts, commissioners stripped small venues and NC-5 from the ordinance at their December meeting. When several members at the same meeting questioned whether the ordinance was even necessary, the commission postponed action and sent it to a work group for further study.

When the ordinance was taken up again on Tuesday, Commissioner Todd Richard announced that it would be tabled indefinitely. Speaking on behalf of the working group, he said, “We’ve solved some problems, but see a lot more that have been created.”

Richard said the ordinance would have to be reintroduced and discussed at another public hearing before any further action could be taken, and commissioners then voted unanimously to table the proposal 

Two other proposed changes to parish zoning ordinances fared better at the meeting.

An amendment to expand the process of notifying the public about proposed zoning changes was approved without opposition.

In addition to the legal advertisement and sign posting already required for a rezoning request, the amendment requires that all owners of property within 300 feet of the property requesting rezoning be notified of the request by mail, and that door-hanger notices be posted on all properties within 100 feet. The St. Tammany Parish assessor’s online Geographic Information System Parcel Viewer would be used to determine the ownership of the nearby properties.

The amendment was proposed last September at the request of District 5 Parish Councilman Rykert Toledano, who said increased notifications were required to ensure that nearby property owners were aware that a zoning change had been requested.

Toledano said he's received numerous complaints from property owners who weren't aware of a rezoning request because the large yellow rezoning sign that the parish had posted on the property had fallen down or had been removed prior to the public hearing on the request.

Toledano’s amendment was endorsed by parish planning director Sidney Fontenot, who said the assessor’s GIS database, while not yet complete, identified enough parish property owners to make the additional notifications a workable solution to the problems Toledano described.

Commissioners also approved an amendment defining Continuing Care Retirement Communities and adding them as a permitted use in MD-1 Medical Residential Districts.

The amendment defines a CCRC as “a community providing multistage living and care primarily (but not exclusively) for senior citizens, including facilities for recreation, exercise, and outside living,” and details the types of facilities and amenities a CCRC can provide for its residents.

The amendment was introduced at the request of CCRC providers to ensure their facilities and the services they offer were specifically permitted within the MD-1 zoning category under which they operate.

Commissioners unanimously approved the amendment, which along with Toledano's amendment, now goes to the parish council for consideration.