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Demolition Derby.
Chronology
No Public Hearing on Conservatory Demolition.

Discussion of Conservatory Demolition Cancelled

 

Updated 11/17/2001

The Heymann Memorial Conservatory was demolished by the Audubon Nature Institute on Wednesday, November 14, 2001. So ends a long history of botanical display in Audubon Park, which started with the popular Horticultural Hall during the Cotton Exposition in 1884.

Civil District Judge Yada Magee refused to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the demolition. Although a hearing on Save Audubon Park's request for a preliminary injunction was scheduled for November 20, the Audubon Nature Institute made sure that the issue would be moot by that time... as expected.

Describing the Conservatory as an "accessory structure" and therefore immune to demolition oversight procedures, the Safety and Permits Department caved in to direct pressure from the Institute and granted the demolition permit. The Department had previously scheduled a hearing on this demolition, at which time the public would have had the opportunity to discuss the impending destruction of their property. Alternative proposals such as the renovation of the Conservatory may also have been aired.

We were informed by the Director of Safety and Permits, Paul May, that the proposed demolition of the Heymann Conservatory would not be discussed at the Demolition Review Board meeting on November 12th. In a confusing, mistaken and wilfully perverse reading of applicable ordinances, Mr May argued that the "greenhouse" is an "accessory structure" rather than a "main building" and that therefore its demolition is exempted from review. Quite why this large free-standing building should be an "accessory" structure, and what exactly it is an accessory to, is not made clear.

Accessory Before the Fact

We believe that the Department's decision to waive public hearing on the demolition of the Conservatory is based on a convenient but erroneous interpretation of the Housing Conservation District Review Committee (HCDRC) ordinance and the provisions of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.

Specifically, the two following provisions:

Section 26-6 of the Ordinance 19791 M.C.S provides that accessory structures are excepted from the review [by the Demolition Review Board]

The provisions of Section 10.4.4 of the zoning ordinance provides that the greenhouses are permitted accessory uses in a P Park and Recreation District.

These two clauses were quoted to us by Mr May in describing his department's decision.

However, the City's Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance also states

Section 2.2

"For the purpose of this Ordinance, certain terms and words are hereby defined:

1. Accessory Building. A subordinate building, attached to or detached from the main building, the use of which is incidental to that of the main building and not used as a place of habitation except by domestic servants employed upon the premises."

Clearly the meaning of "Accessory Building" as described above is not merely any building that is permitted in the Park as a "permitted accessory use", but rather a building that is attached to or subordinate to a "main building". This rule is clearly intended to facilitate demolition of out-houses, servants quarters etc upon successful application for a permit to demolish some notional "main building".

The Heymann Conservatory was not an accessory building in this sense. To say that the Conservatory was "accessory" is to say that every building in Audubon Park is accessory to the park and that would include the boathouse, the new clubhouse and the zoo itself.

Irreparable Harm

We believe that it is shameful for a City agency charged with protecting the interests of the public to connive with a private organization, the Audubon Institute, in the destruction of public property without a public hearing.

Those of you who have followed the entire Audubon Park controversy closely, know that the Institute's plan to build extensive new parking facilities on the site of the Heymann Conservatory and its adjacent greenhouses is extremely controversial. We have argued that the Conservatory could be retained and still leave adequate space for parking for the new golf course clubhouse, and that the Conservatory and indeed the park itself are public properties that do not belong to the Audubon Institute to do whatever they please with.

We have protested the Audubon Institute's methods in arriving at its plans and the details of the plans themselves.

The public has had to elbow it's way uninvited into the Institute's decision-making processes. We should not have to do so with City authorities. A public hearing to determine the necessity and legality of the demolition of the Conservatory is the very least that the public should expect from the City.

What is the hurry?

If you believe that the City should at least hold a hearing on the Conservatory demolition, you can contact Paul May, Director of Safety and Permits at 565-6111, fax 544-5292, or write to

Paul May,
Department of Safety and Permits,
1300 Perdido Street,
City Hall, Room 7E06.
New Orleans, LA 70112.

 
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