Wednesday, January 16, 2013

JP Councilwoman Sheng To Receive Award For Fat City “Redevelopment”; Up Next, Sainthood

Jefferson Parish District 5 Councilwoman Cynthia Sheng, who in 2010 led the charge to trample the property rights and values of Fat City business and land owners, is scheduled to receive an award from the Louisiana chapter of the American Planning Association “for her dedication to the community and leadership”.

Sheng, along with Sheriff Newell Normand, championed the Fat City Rezoning Ordinance which limited the hours of any business selling alcohol, eliminated the opportunity for businesses to have live musical performances, and imposed significant restrictions on building size and offsets. These changes caused several dozen businesses including restaurants, bars and convenience stores, among others, to close and left an estimated 600 people looking for work.
The ordinance set up arbitrary boundaries for the Fat City area and included numerous exclusions and exemptions. The ordinance said that Fat City’s southern boundary was Veterans Blvd. however businesses on Veterans were excluded from the ordinance. It also banned several businesses from the Fat City area including grocery stores and any store that sold fresh produce, but grandfathered in Breaux Mart. Breaux Mart also received an exemption to sell alcohol at a time earlier than any other business in Fat City including 24-hour convenience stores. The ordinance also did not address what many feel is the main culprit in the area’s crime rate, the high density of apartments in the area.

Over two years into the Fat City revitalization, the area is a literal ghost town with numerous businesses shuttered. In their place, a new coffee shop has opened and plans are in the works for 3 new restaurants – 2 of which will replace longtime Fat City establishments which closed in the aftermath of the ordinance.
Perhaps the Councilwoman will receive even more prestigious awards when a second coffee shop opens.

At Wednesday’s Jefferson Parish Council meeting, Sheng was loathe to take credit however, for her role in the ordinance preferring to give credit to Sheriff Normand and the Jefferson Parish Planning Department.
“It was a team effort,” Sheng said.

Comparisons to Mother Theresa are unnecessary.