[StBernard] St. Bernard Parish Council might remove apartment ban from November ballot
westley at da-parish.com
Wed Oct 21 21:42:26 EDT 2009
St. Bernard Parish Council might remove apartment ban from November ballot
By Chris Kirkham, The Times-Picayune
October 21, 2009, 8:10PM
After advice from lawyers this week, the St. Bernard Parish Council might
remove from the November ballot a proposal that would let voters permanently
ban large apartment complexes in the parish.
The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center filed a motion in court
last week that argued parish officials were in contempt of court and in
violation of the federal Fair Housing Act for the fourth time in a year by
calling for the election.
Francis Mulhall, an attorney for St. Bernard, urged the Parish Council this
week to rescind the ordinance calling for the apartment ban, which is on the
ballot for a Nov. 14 special election.
"It's the opinion of the three lawyers who have been working this case that
passage of that ordinance could very well jeopardize the pending appeals and
at the same time could jeopardize the (federal) funds and block grants with
respect to the projects that are pending in the parish," Mulhall said.
The council introduced a measure to rescind the apartment ban item, but the
matter is not up for a final vote until the Nov. 3 council meeting.
U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan has ruled against St. Bernard Parish
officials three times this year because of various attempts to block the
construction of four 72-unit mixed-income apartment buildings in Chalmette.
After her latest ruling, the parish granted the building permits necessary
for the developers, Provident Realty Advisors, to begin construction. If
voters approved the ban on new apartment complexes of more than six units,
it would not apply retroactively to the Provident developments.
Some of the concern about financing for redevelopment projects in the parish
came after Parish President Craig Taffaro met in Washington with officials
from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD controls both the
low-income housing tax credits that are financing the Provident developments
and the Community Development Block Grant money that is being used to pay
for projects such as a new hospital.
Taffaro said this week that after talking with HUD officials, his impression
was the agency believed the parish was out of step with federal housing laws
and that more could be at stake if the parish continued to thwart
Parish Councilman Wayne Landry echoed those concerns Wednesday, saying he
did not want to risk losing federal block grant money, including $41 million
the Parish Council has earmarked for its hospital project.
"The current situation we're in is we're trying to fight the Provident
developments. The vote that's going to happen in November would not have any
bearing on the Provident developments," Landry said. "If that is true, then
we're not really giving up anything to not do it at this time. I'm just
trying to move forward in the smartest way so I do not jeopardize the
Landry said he will seek an attorney general's opinion on whether the
council could enact a similar apartment ban by ordinance, instead of putting
it to voters. Berrigan earlier this year struck down a previous Parish
Council-approved ban on construction of apartments with more than five
units, ruling that it disproportionately affected African-Americans.
If the council chooses to rescind the apartment ban in two weeks, the item
would probably still appear on the Nov. 14 ballot, said Jacques Berry, a
spokesman for the secretary of state's office.
Berry said signs would be posted to tell voters not to vote for the
The secretary of state's office would not count any votes on that issue, he
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