Councilman King to defer bill easing French Quarter regulations following strong backlash
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Community members sounded off Monday evening (May 22) during a town hall after New Orleans City Councilman Freddie King proposed an ordinance easing oversight in the French Quarter.
King caught flak last week after putting forward an ordinance that would impose a one-year moratorium on the prosecution of fines from the Vieux Carré Commission (VCC), while also forcing the approval of permits for businesses with outstanding fines.
King said he drafted the ordinance in response to conversations with businesses and residents in the French Quarter who complained of overregulation and a slow permitting process.
“Sometimes the regulations could be overburdensome and cumbersome to deal with,” said Alex Fein, with the Court of Two Sisters and the French Quarter Business League. “There’s no sympathy or empathy for anything that we go through on a daily basis. After I got caught up, I got cited for $500 a month for operating without a license during COVID and it was kicking me while I was down.”
But Monday evening, opponents of the measure packed the Preservation Resource Center for a town hall with King and the VCC.
“Sir, you have 60 words in here that could destroy the French Quarter,” one resident told King.
“Rather than looking towards the Vieux Carré Commission, towards changing things to assist the city in improving its economy, I urge you to turn around and look at the city administration,” said another.
King listened and said the legislation would be deferred and reworked after further conversations with the VCC, residents and other stakeholders. He said Monday’s meeting was to begin a series of conversations on how the environment in the French Quarter can become more business- and resident-friendly, while also maintaining enforcement that the crowd said was the backbone of the city’s “crown jewel.”
“Adjudication is a very important function for holding people accountable. I think that the language presented in this ordinance is too broad,” said Brook Tesler, Executive Director of the VCC Foundation.
Vieux Carré Property Owners, Residents and Associates president Nathan Chapman agreed with Tesler, saying the real issue is with understaffing.
“We need to fund the VCC more, we need more staffing. They’re too short handed,” he said. “Everything could be improved, and I’m thankful for that, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Chapman asked King if he would be willing to go further and withdraw the ordinance entirely. While King said he wasn’t willing to commit to doing that, he did say the language in the proposed ordinance would be reworked.
“I was surprised by the backlash, but after talking to people, I understood,” King said. “We’re going to have much more conversation. This is just a start, and I’m glad. I’m excited to be here to get the ball rolling, get the conversation started on how we can make the entire permitting process better.”
King said the bill would be deferred to the Community Development Committee meeting, set for June 26.
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