Non-Flood Authority approves Shelters 1 and 2 access gates, provides legal opinion on commercial leasing
The Non-Flood Protection Asset Management Authority approved access gates to be installed at Shelter No. 1 and Shelter No.2 and provided an attorney’s opinion that deemed Shelter No. 1’s leasing as legal.
The Non-Flood Authority recreation committee met on Tuesday, August 22 at the Lakefront Airport. They passed a motion to approve security access gates for Shelter No. 1 and Shelter No. 2, the former of which someone allegedly tried to break into.
Prior to approving the new access gates, Jesse Noel, the executive director of the Authority, delivered an update concerning Shelter No. 1 and its zoning. Currently, Shelter 1 leased out to restaurant developer William Wright, who wants to open Billy Wright’s Olde New Orleans Boil House and Coffee House on the property.
The Authority wishes to establish new commercial space at these shelter houses. They previously withdrew a request to the City Planning Commission in order to devise a better way for seeking a conditional use permit from City Council. Because of the legal discrepancy, Wright’s restaurant was unable to open, thus leaving the space undeveloped and exposed to illicit activity. The proposal to install access gates at the two shelters, in order to curb said activity, will go before the full Authority board at their next meeting on Aug. 24.
Noel said that because residents have questioned the legality of leasing out Shelter No. 1, an attorney’s legal opinion was asked for, specifically regarding Title 38 of the Louisiana Revised Statues. In attorney Gerard G. Metzger’s letter, he said that no definitive judicial ruling has answered whether the leasing of the shelter houses is legal or not.
Metzger explained that the history of how the former Levee Board operated the shelter houses shows that the board believed it had the legal authority to lease these properties for commercial use. Metzger said the files show that the former Levee Board entered into Lakeshore Drive shelter house leases for a 60-year period prior to Hurricane Katrina hitting in 2005. The former Levee Board would soon after become what is now the Non-Flood Authority.
However, the former Levee Board entered into those leases even though a provision of the revised statutes was in effect since almost 90 years ago. Some have suggested this provision established a prohibition against commercial leasing of property within 350 feet of Lake Pontchartrain.
Metzger concluded that the Non-Flood Authority, as the successor of the former Levee Board, has the legal basis to lease out the shelter houses for developments like restaurants, as the former Levee Board did for developments such as concession stands.
Noel said that he would include this legal information when meeting with neighborhoods about Shelter No. 1 zoning before making a presentation before the Non-Flood recreation committee. From there, they will decide how to re-approach City Council for the conditional use permit for William Wright’s restaurant and commercial use for Shelter No. 2.