The New Orleans City Planning Commission defines more than 70 neighborhoods, many of which have more than one neighborhood association. Like many cities across the country, New Orleans is investigating ways to increase opportunities for citizens to give input on projects that affect their communities. A recent study by the National League of Cities, working with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, “Bright Spots in Community Engagement,” demonstrated techniques for successful community engagement. Successful efforts included “city-wide visioning and strategic planning” and “civic engagement in growth and redevelopment.”
New Orleans may be taking a cue. The city recently adopted the Neighborhood Participation Program for Land Use Actions (NPP), a study that recommends improvements to the City Planning Commission’s methods of notice and engagement. Some changes to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance are a result of the recommendations.
Bob Rivers, Executive Director of the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) said, “The Neighborhood Participation Program creates a new process to enhance opportunities for property owners, neighbors and neighborhood organizations to participate in land use decisions that affect them.”
The program invites affected neighbors’ input by requiring that representatives of projects seeking zoning changes, conditional uses and some variances to submit to a public forum prior to moving forward with the project.
The requirements target the residents, neighborhood associations and businesses within a radius of the project as well as the City Council member of the district where the property is located.
After a community meeting is held, project applicants submit comment and concern expressed at the meeting. The applicant’s report on the NPP process is included with the application, so that the public may view it and react to it, if they desire. The CPC staff may address issues raised in its staff report, to which the NPP report is attached. The CPC staff then makes a recommendation to the CPC.
“Its purpose is to encourage early citizen participation in the development review process, create an open dialogue between the applicant and affected neighborhoods and individuals, and improve communications between the development community, citizens and city government,” said Rivers. Perhaps New Orleans may become a “Bright Spot” as well.