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City Council May 16, 2013 Regular Meeting Summary

May 16, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - New Orleans, La - At today's regular City Council Meeting, the Council passed Resolutions requesting that the Federal Legislative Delegation revise the Biggert-Waters Flood Reform Act, urging the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office to examine local law enforcement practices relative to immigration detainment, and authorizing the advertisement of the intent to create the Magnolia Economic Development District. By Motion, the Council advised the City Planning Commission to conduct public hearings regarding maximum permitted height of fences in residential neighborhoods and establishment of the digital zoning map as the Official Zoning Map of New Orleans. Also by Resolution, the Council designated May as Mental Health Awareness Month.

In other business, the Council received a presentation from the New Orleans Children's Advocacy Center regarding the center's work on child abuse in the community. The Council also honored retiring Clerk of Council Peggy Lewis for her 25 years of service.



Requested Revision of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act



The Council passed Resolution R-13-167 requesting the Federal Legislative Delegation revise the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act (BW12) in order to improve the sustainability and affordability of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  
 
Since 1968, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has provided affordable flood insurance to communities using FEMA generated and specified Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for floodplain management. Losses resulting from numerous natural disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, left the program in debt.
 
BW12, which was passed by Congress on July 6, 2012, reauthorized the NFIP for five years and aimed to stabilize the program by adopting updated FIRMs, which will result in increased premium rates, and the elimination of federal subsidies. These revisions resulted in substantial and immediate devaluation of investments made in properties receiving subsidized insurance premium rates due to the drastic increase in the cost of flood insurance.
 
Recommended revisions to the BW12 include:

  • Creation of a one year, one time only, special enrollment period for the NFIP, which would allow applicants to sign up or renew their policy using the currently adopted maps in their community (pursuant to certain conditions).
  • Temporary suspension of the release of new Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs) until after completion of the special enrollment period.
  • Development of different policies that provide varying levels of coverage and deductibles.
  • Provision allowing for any property enrolled or renewed during the special enrollment period, to be sold, donated, or transferred to a new owner and retain the pre-BW12 subsidized rate.
  • Requirement that all excess annual premiums collected through the NFIP shall remain in the NFIP fund balance and be used to reduce the annual actuarial premium rates.
  • Conditions retaining grandfathering of structures that have not flooded and requiring renovation/repair permits on all damaged structures prior to the issuance of any Flood Insurance Payments.
District "C" Councilmember Gisleson Palmer said, "These revisions address the concerns of many of our citizens with regard to their investments in and the safety of their homes and businesses. We encourage FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to work with local stakeholders to develop and refine the new base flood elevation maps and NFIP. We want to ensure that they are an accurate reflection of flood risk in each community and that insurance remains affordable for residents."

 

Examined Local Law Enforcement Immigration Detainment Practices



The Council passed Resolution R-13-164 urging the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office to examine and define its policies and practices related to its compliance with Form I-247 Immigration Detainer requests.
 
Federal regulation authorizes a federal immigration officer to issue a Form I-247 Immigration Detainer to a local law enforcement agency, allowing the local agency to detain the individual in question for up to 48 additional hours after the point when there is no longer any local law enforcement basis for detention. However, the federal government is not required to indemnify against liability nor compensate the local agency for any costs associated with additional detention.
 
In practice, Immigration Detainer requests often result in the continued detention of individuals that would otherwise be able to secure release from custody, leading to an increase in the average jail stay of affected individuals and a subsequent increase in annual detention costs by millions of dollars. Federal regulation explicitly characterizes a Form I-247 Immigration Detainer as a "request," and in recent years numerous cities and states across the country have exercised their federal constitutional right to limit compliance with these requests in a manner consistent with local interests and values.
 
The Resolution specifically requests that the Sheriff's Office examine its policies relative to compliance with Immigration Detainer requests and determine under what circumstances, if any, it serves local law enforcement interests to comply with these requests. The Resolution also specifies that the Sheriff's Office either adopt a formal policy of not honoring these requests or present the Council with a formal policy enumerating the circumstances under which these requests will be honored, with an accounting of all anticipated associated expenses.
 
District "B" Councilmember Cantrell said, "Presently, we face the possibility of additional expenditures to operate local detention facilities, which will likely have a negative budgetary impact on other vital city services. We cannot voluntarily spend funding dedicated to serving local interests on the enforcement of a federal program. Our local law enforcement programs must remain our top priority."
 
District "E" Councilmember Gray said, "Anyone who fits a particular description, regardless of whether he or she is picked up for a traffic ticket or loitering, can be held indefinitely on a detainment request even after the initial complaint is dismissed. This is the worst kind of racial profiling and we will not tolerate it. As elected officials, it is our responsibility to safeguard the rights of everyone in our community. That is why we think this practice should be discontinued."


 

Proposed Amendments to Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance Relative to Fence Heights in Residential Areas



The Council passed Motion M-13-165, co-authored by Councilmembers Head and Hedge-Morrell, directing the City Planning Commission to conduct a public hearing to consider amendments to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance No. 4264 M.C.S. (CZO) relative to the maximum permitted height of fences, walls and hedges for all residential properties, excluding those located in the Vieux Carré.
 
Currently, the CZO limits fence/wall/hedge height to a maximum of 7 feet, measuring from the grade on the side of the property where the fence is being constructed. However, the CZO does not specify a method for measuring height along common property lines with differing grades on each side of the property line. The Department of Safety and Permits' current policy is to measure from grade on the side of the property where the fence, wall or hedge is being constructed. This creates an inequity relative to the rights of the property at the lower grade.
 
Proposed amendments to the Ordinance specify that the height will be measured from the highest grade at the property line on either side of the property when grade differs between abutting properties. The maximum permitted height cannot exceed 10 feet, and a building permit is required for all fences/walls/hedges exceeding 7 feet in height.
 
Council Vice President Head said, "It is important that we ensure that our zoning policies are clearly stated and that the information is accessible to residents and business owners. This amendment helps to clarify the CZO so that all parties are aware of the requirements that pertain to fence heights."
 
District "D" Councilmember Hedge-Morrell said, "As our neighborhoods continue to develop and grow we are seeing an increase in neighboring properties with differing elevation grades. This amendment addresses that issue and ensures the protection of all property owners' rights."


 

Began Process to Establish Official Zoning Map in Digital Format



The Council passed Motion M-13-158 to begin the process of establishing the digital zoning map as the Official Zoning Map of the City of New Orleans.
 
Specifically, the Motion directs the City Planning Commission to conduct a public hearing to consider the necessary amendments to the text of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance No. 4264 M.C.S. to reflect the establishment of the digital zoning map as the Official Zoning Map. In the process of reviewing the proposed amendments, City Planning Commission staff are directed to recommend any additional changes to ensure consistency and continuity and/or clarify ambiguities or mistakes.
 
Council President Clarkson said, "We recognize the importance of providing information to the public in the most accessible way possible. The conversion of the City's official paper zoning maps to digital format will provide for a more cost-effective and user-friendly experience for our citizens, staff and local businesses and organizations."

 

Authorized Advertisement of Creation of Magnolia Economic Development District



The Council passed Resolution R-13-171, authored by Councilmember Cantrell, authorizing the advertisement of the intention to create the Magnolia Economic Development District.  
 
The proposed plans for the Magnolia Economic Development District - bounded by Toledano Street, South Claiborne Avenue, Washington Avenue and Clara Street - include creation of a major shopping center with potential businesses including T.J. Maxx, Shoe Carnival, Ulta, PetSmart, and Michaels.
 
The Council intends to hold a public hearing relative to the proposed creation of the district at its regular Council Meeting on Thursday, June 6th, at which point there will be an opportunity for public comment.
 
District "B" Councilmember Cantrell said, "Our commercial corridors are a vital part of our local economy and we are excited to get the ball rolling on this new economic development district. The creation of this new district will help us to make the necessary infrastructure improvements to attract businesses to the area and ensure that those businesses succeed."

 

Received Presentation from Children's Advocacy Center



Executive Director of the New Orleans Children's Advocacy Center (NOCAC), Stacie LeBlanc, appeared before the Council to discuss the type of work the center does for child abuse victims in the community.
 
As part of the Audrey Hepburn Children At-Risk Evaluation (CARE) Center, the NOCAC is a non-profit organization that provides a coordinated, multi-agency approach to the investigation and treatment of child abuse and neglect. The NOCAC staff is composed of numerous multi-disciplinary teams dedicated to serving the best interests of affected children and working towards a secure and supportive environment for each family.

District "A" Councilmember Guidry said, "There is nothing more important than keeping the children of our communities safe and secure. We are grateful for the tireless work of the NOCAC to ensure that children who are victims of abuse are given the appropriate care and attention needed to live safe and empowered lives."

 

Proclaimed May as Mental Health Awareness Month



The Council passed Resolution R-13-166 officially designating May 2013 as Mental Health Awareness Month. Since 1949, May has been observed as National Mental Health Awareness Month.
 
The 2013 observance of Mental Health Awareness Month aims to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and the stigma people with mental health face, while delivering the message that recovery is possible with proper treatment.

District "B" Councilmember Cantrell said, "With mental healthcare taking a backseat in New Orleans since Katrina, I believe it is time that we show the people of our community that we are striving to help those with mental and emotional disorders. Designating May as Mental Health Awareness Month demonstrates our commitment to providing accessible and affordable mental healthcare to all those in our City who might need it."

 

Recognized Retiring Clerk of Council for Years of Service



The Council presented Peggy Lewis, Clerk of Council, with a Proclamation recognizing her for her 25 dedicated years of service to the City of New Orleans. In August of 2002, Ms. Lewis was appointed Clerk of the City Council, and in October 2008 she received her certification of Master Municipal Clerk, the highest certification that can be earned by a municipal clerk. Ms. Lewis was sworn in as President of the Municipal Clerks Association in 2012. Today's Council Meeting was Ms. Lewis' final meeting as Clerk of Council before her retirement. The Council acknowledged Ms. Lewis' extensive knowledge of government relations and her many years of hard work, which will not be forgotten.

 

 
  

Requested Revision of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act

Examined Local Law Enforcement Immigration Detainment Practices

Proposed Amendments to Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance Relative to Fence Heights in Residential Areas

Began Process to Establish Official Zoning Map in Digital Format

Authorized Advertisement of Creation of Magnolia Economic Development District

Received Presentation from Children's Advocacy Center

Proclaimed May as Mental Health Awareness Month

Recognized Retiring Clerk of Council for Years of Service

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