Proposed zoning district could delay, halt construction of new Tulane stadium

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 3, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Updated Thursday, May 3 at 6:06 PM

Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Email: mrodriguez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mrodriguezwwl

NEW ORLEANS -- University presidents, student athletes and Uptown residents packed into the City Council chambers on Thursday, over the future of a new stadium at Tulane University.

It's a future that got murkier as the Council voted 4-2, in favor of looking into creating an Interim Zoning District (IZD) in the stadium area. It would limit the size of structures built by universities in the Uptown area.

"We want the facts on the table from both sides of the story," said City Council President Jackie Clarkson.

Both sides made their voices heard in chambers, including two university presidents.

"Let's face it, this proposed IZD is a building moratorium," said Tulane President Dr. Scott Cowen.

"It may be Tulane today and me tomorrow," said Xavier University President Dr. Norman Francis.

Frustrated residents expressed concerns about potential noise and parking problems.

"Allowing Tulane to construct a 30,000 seat arena, without requiring them to construct any additional parking, constitutes, in my mind, reckless urban planning," said resident David Brown.

"I ask you, 'Would you want a football stadium less than 20 feet from your bedroom?'" asked resident Patricia Becker.

Council Member Susan Guidry put forth the resolution, which three other council members backed.

"We need to look at its growth, particularly when its growth of the size of a stadium that has been recently shown to the public," Guidry said.

However, Council Members Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and Jon Johnson voted against it, citing Tulane as an important part of the city's economy.

"It is a vital part of their future if they're going to attract the student population, continue to grow and continue to be a vital part of this community," said Hedge-Morrell, City Council District D.

For its part, in a statement Thursday, the Landrieu administration said it opposes the zoning district.

"The Mayor opposes the Interim Zoning District (IZD), as it is contrary to the master plan. Creating a master plan with the force of law was a reform designed to give residents and businesses a predictable, stable system of land use," said Ryan Berni, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Press Secretary. "The administration intends to work aggressively with Tulane to ensure that its parking and traffic plans make sense and minimize impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. This motion will adversely impact Tulane and other universities, stalling progress for these good community partners and economic engines."

In the end, the council's vote could at least delay the stadium's construction. Tulane's president said it may also cause future stadium donors to have second thoughts.

"I think its naive to believe that this is not going to have some adverse impact on this project," Dr. Cowen said.

For now, work on the stadium's design is moving forward. The next step is for the City Planning Commission to take up the zoning district, before it goes back to the council for another vote.

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