NEW ORLEANS – The city of New Orleans began issuing permits Wednesday for landlords to fix storm-damaged doubles in Lakeview for the first time since 2011.
The city was forced to issue the permits after it lost a case against Lakeview landlord Sue Spilsbury and the city’s effort to have the case heard by the Louisiana Supreme Court was denied.
An Eyewitness Investigation in December exposed that the city had changed the interpretation of the Lakeview zoning ordinance LRS-1 in 2011.
The city claimed the ordinance prohibited permits for storm repairs to anything other than single-family dwellings. The ordinance did have a 2010 deadline for doubles to be built from scratch, but a plain reading of the ordinance appeared to let owners of existing doubles fix their structures at any time.
The WWL-TV report featured Spillsbury’s fight to renovate her 1933 double on Memphis Street. Her work had been delayed as she waited for a grant from the state’s troubled Small Rental Repair Program. Just as she had been approved for payment, the city informed her that then-director of Safety and Permits Paul May had decided the ordinance was “unclear” and had determined that it didn’t allow any more permits to be granted for repairs to existing doubles.
Former City Councilwoman Shelley Midura told WWL-TV in December that the ordinance she passed was never intended to block work on existing doubles and called May’s re-interpretation “a stretch.”
Spilsbury argued in court that the Safety and Permits director didn’t have the authority to interpret legislation. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeal agreed with her and ruled the permits should be granted. The city applied for a writ to the Supreme Court and it was denied last month.
“Based on the Supreme Court ruling, we are now issuing permits,” city spokesman Tyler Gamble said.