A rezoning request to create an ice-cream shop on Louisiana Avenue in the Irish Channel was rejected by the City Council on Thurday after neighbors expressed worry the spot-zoning would permit a year-round AirBnB hub.
Reginald Commodore, a 41-year-old engineer, is seeking to rezone the building at 940 Louisiana Avenue (the corner of Constance Street) from residential to neighborhood business in order to open an ice-cream parlor called “Love Kreme.” That could be accomplished by a conditional use within the current zoning, officials have said, but Commodore also wants to use the two apartments inside the building as short-term rentals, which requires the full rezoning.
He has always rented out one of the apartments to help him pay off the mortgage, he said, but it is not always easy to keep occupied. More recently, he has listed it as a short-term rental, and has had more than 100 happy guests, he said.
The City Planning Commission denied a full rezoning request in November, encouraging Commodore to reapply for the conditional use to open just the ice-cream shop. Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell repeated that request Thursday during a regular City Council meeting, offering a motion to for the city waive a second application fee to return to City Planning.
“[Neighbors] have explained they are in full support of an ice cream shop, but not in support of a full zoning change…so I’m going to deny this request,” she said.
Several neighbors spoke against Commodore’s request, including Eleanor Brown, who lives directly across from the proposed ice cream shop. She expressed concern about the usual parking and litter problems associated with businesses, but railed against what she said was Commodore’s “true intent” for the property.
“If this is rezoned, there will be 35 other uses – including a 365 days-a-year virtual hotel on the corner,” she said.
“We believe that what he is trying to do is trying to use this building as commercial short-term rental, which will allow him to use it every day of the year,” Debby Pigman, president of the Faubourg Delachaise Neighborhood Association, told the CPC. “We do not want to see any more short-term rentals in the neighborhood.”
Commodore told the council he had always rented out one of the apartments to allow him to pay off his mortgage sooner, and doesn’t plan on using any tax abatements or credits to construct the shop. He argues the lot was used commercially years ago – neighbors argue it was more than 35 years ago – so creating a new shop wouldn’t be a major shock to the community.
“A lot of people think it’s change but it’s not, it’s a return to what it was,” he said.
The council unanimously voted against the rezoning, but agreed to Cantrell’s motion to waive a future application fee if Commodore wishes to request a conditional use permit.