[StBernard] St. Bernard Parish Council accepts zoning ordinance less restrictive on multifamily housing

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Wed Mar 21 08:26:29 EDT 2012

St. Bernard Parish Council accepts zoning ordinance less restrictive on
multifamily housing

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 9:15 PM

By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, The Times-Picayune

Without fanfare, the St. Bernard Parish Council on Tuesday unanimously
introduced an amended code of ordinance that would continue to allow
multifamily dwellings in more zoning districts than the rescinded April 2011
ordinances. If approved next month, the code of ordinances would add
mandates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to its
revised code.

The parish was strong-armed by HUD to repeal its previously restrictive code
on April 5, 2011, reverting to its 1970s-era code. Prior to the repeal of
the ordinance last year, multifamily developments were permitted only in R-3
zoning areas, and through types of Planned Unit Developments that required
special approval.

The amended ordinances, like the reinstated 1970s code, would allow
single-family, mobile home, two-family and multifamily dwellings
additionally in rural, commercial and light industrial zoning areas.

Councilman George Cavignac recommended that the parish administration
forward the proposed ordinance to "federal agencies to make sure they review
them before we pass them."

"We are not any longer going to be more, or less, restrictive with
multifamily housing," said Chief Administrative Officer Jerry Graves Jr.

While the zoning proposals drew little debate, a much lengthier discussion
ensued about a state House bill to allow the parish to hire a newspaper that
has only been in operation for about six months as its official journal.

The council opted not to support the bill, and Council President Guy McInnis
said that means the bill, in all likelihood, is dead in the water.

McInnis said he asked state Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Meraux, to introduce the
proposal after receiving a legal opinion from a parish attorney that the
current official journal, the St. Bernard Voice, does not meet state
requirements. The proposed legislation would allow the St. Bernard Post,
which opened in October, to compete for the official journal contract.

After a Times-Picayune story on Monday revealed that the St. Bernard Post
rents office space from Garofalo, McInnis said that "due to ethics
conflicts," Garofalo would drop the bill and that state Sen. J.P. Morrell,
D-New Orleans, who represents parts of St. Bernard, would pick it up.

McInnis was listed as the sports editor of the Post when it started in
October. He said he wrote only one sports story and that Post owner Kenny
Zulli, an old friend, had surprised him with the title. McInnis says he
stopped working on the paper after that first publication because he felt it
would be a conflict of interest after he decided to seek the Parish Council

Zulli said he became interested in the official journal contract after
recently researching the law. Zulli, along with McInnis and other
councilmen, questioned whether the Voice would qualify, because state law
requires a parish's official journal to have had its "principal public
business office," not necessarily its printing press, physically in the
parish for five consecutive years prior its selection.

State law also states that "a newspaper shall have only one principal public
business office." The bill would have affected only parishes whose
population was between 35,700 and 39,000 people according to the latest
federal decennial census. The 2010 census listed St. Bernard's population at

The Voice has deep roots in St. Bernard, but in 2008 the publication was
sold to the owners of the Plaquemines Gazette.

Norris Babin, co-owner of the Voice, said the Voice does meet state
requirements, but he also told the council on Tuesday that fewer than half
of the newspaper's employees work out of its Arabi office and that he could
not guarantee that employees staffed the Arabi office every workday.

McInnis and other councilmen feared that if the Voice did not qualify, the
parish would be forced to select a newspaper from a neighboring parish.

The council also tabled a decision on a zoning change for a proposed
microbrewery in Chalmette to await the parish Planning and Zoning
Commission's recommendation.

Benjamin Alexander-Bloch can be reached at bbloch at timespicayune.com or

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