Residents fear air-rights tax will price them out of city

Residents fear air rights tax will price them out of city

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Additional taxes for stoops and overhangs in New Orleans have some residents considering moving out of town.

"I'm going to get charged a fee for it, and I don't even know what triggers it," French Quarter resident Kerri Folley-Kessler said.

Folley-Kessler, an expecting mother, wants to make improvements to her home, but when she found out upgrades may come with additional taxes because her stoops touch the sidewalk and her awning hangs over it as well, she was forced into a financial decision.

"We only have until March until the next baby arrives and we have to make some decisions about what we are going to do as a family," Folley-Kessler said. "It's either trying to afford to stay in the French Quarter or throw our hands up and have to move somewhere else."

"This is something that is important not just to the French Quarter, but to every neighborhood in the city, and we will not let this go," Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates spokeswoman Meg Lousteau said.

Lousteau and others visited New Orleans City Hall on Wednesday to share their frustrations over the air rights issue. City officials said the additional taxes will not be enforced unless property owners apply for a permit and encroachments are discovered.

A spokesperson with Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office said the city is required by the State Constitution to charge residents for the use of public property, including air rights, and establishing liability for encroachments on the right of way.

Officials said the city is charging a percentage of the fair market value of vacant land for these encroachments. The annual fee would be five percent for encroachments that do not hinder the public right of way, and a two-and-a-half percent annual fee of any encroachment already existing. They also say they are charging a one-time fee to homeowners of $350 for very nominal encroachments.

"In some cases, we've heard a thousand dollars. There was an architect here today who mentioned I think three or four thousand dollars, and these are annual payments," Lousteau said.

"Makes us feel like we are being used for the almighty dollar," Folley-Kessler said.

The mayor's office said 30 years ago, the city used leases for encroachments on the public right-of-way, and in the past, those leases were frequently written to be renewed on a yearly basis. But the office admits it did not always happen.

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