MWCA Will Oppose Renewal of Mt Hope Development Plan This Monday (March 19)
The MWCA Board of Directors will oppose renewal of Mount Hope’s expired development plan when it comes up for renewal by the Planning and Zoning Commission this Monday (March 19, 2018) because the plan—which defines how the Mount Hope property may be used—has been stripped of all language that protects our neighborhood from unreasonable noise, congestion, and other disruptions. The Board adopted a formal resolution at its March 13, 2018 meeting explaining the decision.
The historic, private residence that we all know as Mount Hope was rezoned from A1 residential to Small Planned Use Development (SPUD) in 2000 to allow the property’s owners to offset the cost of maintaining a historic home by operating a modest wedding reception venue and “bed and breakfast.” The SPUD development plan approved during the rezoning process was negotiated with neighbors and included provisions governing noise, parking, tour bus operations, alcohol and food service, and lighting.
The development plan expired in 2004 because it was not implemented in keeping with timelines mandated by the Unified Development Code (the regulations that govern development in East Baton Rouge parish), and must be “renewed” by the Planning Commission if the current and future owners are to continue operating a catering and event operation on the premises.
The plan’s expiration did not come to light until three neighbor families—joined by the MWCA—sued the City in Spring 2017 for violating City planning when the Planning Commission approved a major expansion of event facilities at Mount Hope in December 2016, including construction of an 8,000-square-foot event hall. The City acknowledged the error and rescinded the Commission’s decision before the suit went to trial.
The MWCA Board has interpreted the owners’ elimination of key protective provisions from the 2000 development plan as signaling a general disregard for the impact that the events they stage have on the property rights and quality of life of their immediate neighbors and the larger Magnolia Woods community—hence the Board’s decision to oppose the plan’s renewal. The attorney retained by Mount Hope has communicated that his clients have rejected conditions proposed by neighbors because the compromises neighbors seek would hinder their [the owners’] ability to be responsive to customers and are “burdensome to the owners’ economic interest in Mount Hope.”
The Board considers the outcome of Monday’s P&Z Commission decision particularly crucial because the development plan is affixed to the property, not specific owners. If adopted in its present form—without language protecting neighbors—there will be virtually no limit on the scope and type of events that can be hosted at Mount Hope today and in the future. For this reason, the MWCA Board resolution adopted this week also puts the Planning Commission on notice that
MWCA will continue to oppose renewal … until and unless such time as the current owners work in good faith with ALL of the owners of properties that surround Mount Hope and with the larger Magnolia Woods community to develop conditions that will assure the peace and tranquility of the neighborhood and will allow the neighbors surrounding Mount Hope the basic right to enjoy their own properties.
Residents are encouraged to email the Planning Commission members and staff, as well as the neighborhood’s Metro Council representative, Barbara Freiberg, before Monday’s meeting. Volunteers are walking the streets of Magnolia Woods this week to gather signatures on petitions and encourage residents to attend the Planning and Zoning hearing, which begins at 5 p.m. Monday in Room 348 of City Hall, 222 St. Louis Street.
The Planning Commission agenda and details of the renewal application (including the proposed plan and Planning Commission staff report) are available online. For additional information or a chance to sign a petition opposing the plan’s adoption, email MWCA at email@example.com