Latest parish attempt to stop apt. progress failsMar 11th, 2011 | By Michelle Provencher | Category: News
St. Bernard Parish officials’ attempt to stifle construction of the four mixed-income apartment complexes in Chalmette was shot down last week after the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center filed for a temporary restraining order against the parish.
Parish President Craig Taffaro issued cease and desist orders on March 4 to halt progress at all four building sites, but GNOFHAC and the developer, Texas-based Provident Realty Advisors, filed the TRO that same day.
U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan – who has ruled against St. Bernard Parish’s attempts to block the apartments three times – sided with GNOFHAC and Provident Realty again and granted the TRO, which will last ten days or “until such time as the Court holds a hearing to determine appropriate fines, penalties, damages, fees and costs, and other relief.”
A cease and desist order from the Army Corps of Engineers was placed on construction of the 72-unit apartments once before, after a parish resident discovered wetlands next to the building site. However, work has since resumed.
Provident must finish building all of the complexes by the end of this year in order to qualify for $30 million in low-income housing federal tax credits.
Housing has been a topic of contention in St. Bernard Parish since Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the homes in 2005.
Some people – including Judge Berrigan – said there is a lack of rebuilt affordable and rental housing in St. Bernard in an effort to prevent African-Americans from moving into the parish.
At a recent St. Bernard Parish Council meeting, a throng of residents – dressed in red to oppose the apartments – expressed disdain for Berrigan calling racism into question.
Rather, the citizens said the apartment project would lower their property values or change the dynamic of the community.
Several of those who spoke out vouched that there is plenty of rental housing in the parish already, and inexpensive apartments would detract tenants from current landlords.
At that same meeting, the council repealed two zoning ordinances that were passed in Dec. 2009 to prohibit multi-family housing. These ordinances prevented the parish from granting Provident a necessary permit renewal.