(WVUE) - Jefferson Parish residents sounded off Tuesday about a proposed Ochsner parking area. They say the move would take away from the charm of their neighborhood in Old Jefferson.
Right now, Ochsner owns 11 homes on Deckbar and Betz. Their $360 million expansion plan includes tearing down those houses to make way for a parking area.
Ochsner representatives say their expansion project aims to offer more comprehensive healthcare to folks in the region, as well as more jobs and more private investment. They say the parking area is necessary to meet the needs of their patients by providing easier access and more convenient parking for those headed to the emergency department.
"We believe these projects are helping to improve the community. We want to continue to invest in the community. We want Ochsner to be in the heart of thriving, vibrant neighborhoods," said Ochsner representative Emily Arata.
Arata says they've addressed a number of residents' concerns. She says they plan to keep a third of the land green space, adding 50 new trees and leaving the live oaks already in place. Arata says there will be security lighting facing away from residents homes, as well as security cameras.
The parking area will require validation, which Arata says will discourage people from parking there if they're not visiting the hospital.
Arata adds there will be no additional turn lanes from Jefferson Highway to avoid increased congestion. Plus, they say the garage will improve drainage, not hinder it.
Arata says Ochsner also listened to residents concerns regarding zoning. Instead of "Hospital 2". That would've allowed for a 75-foot building. Instead, they opted for H-1, which restricts height to 35 feet.
"We're still opposed to that because once the dominoes start falling in the residential zones, it's just a matter of time, we feel, that they would be encroaching on us," said Rio Vista resident Les Riess.
"They're not blighted houses, it's not a blighted neighborhood and it doesn't deserve to be obliterated by Ochsner," Rio Vista resident Bernard Eble.
Residents worry the expansion takes away from the neighborhood's character and charm. With only a few homeowners left in the proposed area, residents worry if they ever want to sell, it will have to be to Ochsner. They say, instead of hospital zoning, they'd like to see it remain residential and have Ochsner use the homes for staff housing.
The council is set to make a decision on the zoning change next Wednesday.