NEW ORLEANS - It's a neighborhood squabble that could only happen in New Orleans. That's because it's unlikely that any other city has a code protecting plants from parade goers.
When a group of viewers complained to Eyewitness News about a homeowner blocking its traditional parade-watching site, we decided to look into the code.
You know it's Carnival time when fences go up on St. Charles Ave. There are orange plastic ones and chain link ones. They wrap around private property, but also around public property between the street and sidewalk. Homeowners say they spend a lot of money landscaping, watering and maintaining that city property.
"If I don't do it, which I don't do on this corner here, this grass is totally destroyed, just flatteded out. It's gone," said John Schaff, a homeowner who says it can take up to six months for the grass or ground covering to grow back.
He says it costs to buy, install, and store, custom fencing he's used for eight years.
But another group of neighbors are complaining about brand new landscaping across the street. It's in a place where their group has watched parades for generations. The fence is so tall, you can't see the parade over it. They worry kids will climb it and get hurt. There are sandbags holding the fence in place, sticking out on the sidewalk that you can trip over. Schaff has his fence in posts anchored in the ground.
"We've been coming for 10 years (to watch the parades here). And the neighbors that we came with, were here longer than that. And then we bought a house from a neighbor just last year, and they were coming to this spot the past 50 years or so. So it's kind of a tradition for us to be at this location," said Jay Dufour, a neighborhood spokesman. One other member of the group talked to Eyewitness News by phone explaining the group's complaints and all of the people on the City Council and Parks and Parkways department who they talked to.
They say only the half of the city property in front of the house where they watch has been recently landscaped and blocked.
"It seems like (the quick landscaping) it's just so they could get the permit to put up a fence," said Dufour on behalf of several neighbors.
We knocked on the door to get the homeowner's side, but no one was home. The city said this is legal.
A spokesman for the city didn't want to talk to us on camera, but said if a person gets approval and landscapes at least 30 days before the parade, they're completely within their legal rights to put up a fence. And they said the property on the corner of Constantinople and St. Charles, is the only one that got a new approval this entire year.
We found fences around public ground not landscaped, even though the city code states it's unlawful, unless protecting plants and trees. There are no height restrictions on the barricades.
Homeowners just want to protect their investment. Some parade goers worry the entire avenue will one day be enclosed.
To get a new approval, the city Parks and Parkways Department needs a detailed drawing of the planned protective enclosure at least 30 days before the parade.
It shall be unlawful for any individual, organization, or corporation to fence, rope off, or stake out any area of public property along a parade route except when necessary to protect plants, shrubbery, trees and other landscaping materials with the approval of the department of parkways and parks. Each private property owner shall notify the parkway and park commission at least 30 days prior to the date of a parade in writing and shall submit a detailed drawing of the planned protective enclosure device. If the private property owner is not notified in writing by the parkway and park commission within ten days of the parade date, it shall be assumed that the proposed protective enclosure device is approved. Any changes to the proposed protective enclosure device mandated by the parkway and park commission shall be complied with.