Narrow home on Chestnut Street approved over neighbors’ objections

Print More
The beginnings of the house at 4621 Chestnut Street (via City of New Orleans)

The beginnings of the house at 4621 Chestnut Street (via City of New Orleans)

The city's property maps show the narrow lot at 4621 Chestnut Street. (via City of New Orleans)

The city’s property maps show the narrow lot at 4621 Chestnut Street. (via City of New Orleans)

A 12-foot-wide house planned for Chestnut Street was recently granted approval to continue construction despite the objection of a number of nearby neighbors.

The developer, Logistics Park LLC of New Orleans, is planning a two-story home for the lot at 4621 Chestnut Street. The house would be 12-feet, 10-inches wide, 65 feet long, and 28 feet tall, for a total floor area of approximately 1,500 square feet.

The lot itself measures 21 feet across, nearly half the 40 feet normally required, but the city granted a construction permit was granted back in March because “a single-family lot can be developed on by right” under usual circumstances, said Leslie Alley of the City Planning Commission. However, city officials did not notice that the lot at 4621 had been commonly owned with the neighboring lot property until just last year, Alley said, which means a variance should have been required.

When neighbors pointed out the prior common ownership of the neighboring lots, a hearing before the Board of Zoning Adjustments was triggered for Monday, July 13, and a stop-work order was issued in the interim.

“Right now we’re shut down and experiencing some weather damage, so we’re hoping to get this process rolling again,”
Contractor David Kaufmann of Slidell told the board.

Anne Raymond, representing the developer, told the board that the lot width dates back nearly a century.

“The lot area and width are the historical lot area and width from 1908,” Raymond said. “It is how it is.”

The hearing, however, brought a number of neighbors in opposition.

“The neighbors are vehemently opposed to this project,” said Susan Drogin, who lives on Coliseum Street on the back side of the property. “We do not want it deferred. We want it denied.”

Justin Chopin, who lives on the Valence Street side of the block, said the lot is too small to be independently developed, and the developer should have known that when they bought it.

“They had to do so knowing it was never going to be conforming to the zoning regulations,” Chopin said. “There’s not ample parking. It doesn’t fit with the construct of the other houses.”

Lorraine Neville, husband of Art Neville, said the lot was always part of the neighboring home as a side yard.

“I know this to be true: It was never an independent lot,” Lorraine Neville said, noting that she had a letter signed by 15 adjacent neighbors opposing the construction.

The board, however, said that the developer appeared to have properly followed the process laid out by city officials, even though the city erroneously applied the law. Board member Tommy Screen said that he sympathized with the neighbors’ concerns, but that the developer’s property rights should not be constrained by whether the neighbors liked the design of the house.

“Developers by their very nature are not evil people. They clearly are in America and can make a living and develop things whether neighbors are opposed to it or not, if they follow the rules,” Screen said. “In this case you’ve got someone who came in, and as the result of an error in the process laid out by the city, work was begun, and now we’ve got two sets of people in a lurch. Sometimes life’s not fair, I guess.”

After verifying the March permit issued by the city, Board of Zoning Adjustments chair Todd James concurred with Screen, and the board voted to approve the staff’s recommendation to allow construction to proceed.

17 thoughts on “Narrow home on Chestnut Street approved over neighbors’ objections

  1. “… the lot was always part of the neighboring home as a side yard.” Common ownership of two adjacent lots is not the same as the whole property being a single lot of record. If this lot has existed since 1908 (pre-dating the CZO and, thus, grandfathered), it should be buildable as described by Ms. Alley. Keep Uptown quirky!

      • Or Portland, maybe? No, I am born and bred right here in Uptown. However, as an example, Austin has done a great job of incorporating new construction and fresh architecture into their historic neighborhoods. I would much rather see a few quirky, modern houses go up here and there (not wholesale redevelopment!), than the boxy faux-vernacular monstrosities that most developers have been building Uptown. Time marches on, even in New Orleans. We should embrace and manage change, not hopelessly fight it at every turn.

    • Cannibal,

      Indeed. Uptown is hardly famous for it’s large side yards. Clearly this was a small lot intended for future development.

      • Clearly? Yes, lots Uptown (and New Orleans in general) are not famous for their generous frontage, but these lots were drawn out back in the day when cars were scarce and street car lines were only a block in either direction of this particular lot (Camp and Coliseum both had lines that ran in the 4600 block). Yes…I’m sure someone back in 1908 foresaw this $$$ opportunity…genius!

    • frustrated,

      Yes, instead of responding to market forces and allowing greater density, let’s just artificially inflate housing costs by restricting supply because otherwise, CONGESTION.

      • Tell us about these market forces. There are many variables. People move into a neighborhood for many reasons, the least of which is the concern that our city officials will drop the ball and allow out of scope development. These people are fighting for the integrity of their neighborhood and protecting their investment (a home is an investment by the way) by holding the city responsible for enforcing the city codes and not devaluing their investments by allowing cheap out of scope construction.

  2. I live on a 21′ wide lot in a shotgun-style home built pre-1900. This is certainly not an unusually narrow lot for many of the historic neighborhoods…it just might not meet the perfect vision of Uptown that some seem to hold.

    • That’s a rather sad rebuttal: “If you don’t like it, leave it.” I’ve lived in New Orleans my entire life, as have my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents; I care about this city. Obviously we have different views, and while I disagree with yours, I think dialogue – not sarcasm – is important and vital to this city’s urban health.

  3. I don’t understand why people can’t see that their stubbornness to accept change will hold back the growth of the city. I want to get into building tiny homes to provide a affordable living option for the youth in the city. The youth who is fresh out of college or trade school but need a stepping stone, without depending on government assistance.

  4. Just this weekend I was visiting with a friend who had moved down to the Garden District, where the lots are spacious and the walls are tall. It’s not the same, not even close to what we have further uptown. They do not have the same sense of community. They do not see their neighbors on the stoop or chat with them over the fence. And that is a function of population density. This new home will increase the density, and create a slight parking inconvenience for a few. The same is to be said for the new 211 units on Jackson, greater population density, more neighbors, and potentially (if you choose to see it that way) more community, and more people in your Neighborhood Watch. Hopefully, we live in a city because we like people and the community the develops from people living close to one another.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.