Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Whole Foods Wants to Break Agreement with Uptown Residents

By Betsy Stout

Whole Foods has applied to change the ordinance that regulates their operation. Uptown residents believe that this ordinance and it’s provisos were carefully crafted by land use and transportation professionals, including the staff of the city planning commission and national land use expert Dan Mandelker out of St. Louis, and more than happily agreed to by Whole Foods and by property owners Hixon and Sarpy.

The purpose of the provisos was to mitigate the impact of a large grocery store operation that extends into a residential neighborhood with no buffer between it and the residences. The provisos also helped level the playing field as much as possible between this large commercial operation and the small local businesses it joined on Magazine St.Whole Food’s explanation that their customer base has grown such that they have to ask for this expansion of their operation is answered by asking them to please open another Whole Foods location – thus reducing congestion at this location and better serving the community. We would like to suggest that they consider the vacant Lower District location on Annunciation St. where a Schwegmann, then Roberts used to operate.

This would serve the lower Magazine St. neighborhoods, the Warehouse District (which has no grocery store at all), and is very close to the bridge to the West Bank, convenient for people who work downtown but live on the West Bank.They are requesting increased eighteen wheelers, when even the trucks that come now cannot make the turn from Magazine St. on to narrow, residential Arabella. There have been at least 4 different sink holes this summer alone in this block of Arabella. We have offered a solution to their delivery problems that would reduce the impact of their trucks and delivery hours – that is to revisit an original design that recognized that the street cars and buses in the old barn used Magazine St. Although they would not want to reconfigure the entire store at this late date, they could place a loading dock on the Magazine St. apron and unload trucks there all night long (when Magazine St. is empty of traffic) without any increased impact on our streets or residents.

They are asking to have permission for live music, both inside and outside the building, which together with their ABO, makes them an entertainment venue. Changes to the ordinance or title run with the property forever and cannot be written to restrict the use to one tenant such as Whole Foods. Text changes that attempt to restrict the live music to the tenant of Whole Foods are unenforceable according to the staff of the planning commission and the opinion of land use attorneys we have consulted.Whole Foods has managed nicely to have music whenever they wish to date, by applying for a permit for the band. We have no objection to this as it does not create a permanent change in the permitted use of the building as a music hall.

Changes to the ordinance that allows Whole Foods to have displays of flowers, etc, on the apron of the building give Whole Foods an advantage over other small flower shops along Magazine – one in the very next block even – that are prohibited from having sidewalk displays.The mystique of Whole Foods exercises a zombie like influence on some of the young people who live close by – mostly all newcomers to New Orleans, who will agree to anything that will increase their Whole Foods lifestyle experience. These mostly young folks make up the board of ARNA, which is now actually in the process of changing their by-laws to reflect their aim to give bigger businesses free reign on Magazine St. and within the neighborhood. (I must explain this very unusual situation, because to see ARNA in action is to render those of us who understand the ramifications of these actions speechless.)

They voted to allow live music and restrict it to Whole Foods despite the warning from Council member Guidry’s representative Kelly Butler, that such wording was not enforceable. Fortunately another neighborhood organization, Burtheville Association of Neighbors is fastly becoming the neighborhood association of record and will oppose these changes.

The CPC will consider this on AUGUST 23, at 1:30 pm.Short URL: http://katrinafilm.com/public/wordpress/?p=2254

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