As reported earlier this month, A Step in the Right Direction, Larry Willis, who owns a property on the corner of St. Claude Avenue and Bartholomew Street (4000 St. Claude), was offered a twenty-year guaranteed lease by Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits, but only if Popeyes could have a drive-through window for their chicken stand. Since the property was zoned B1-A and didnt allow for a drive-through, Willis would have to apply to the City Planning Comission for conditional use.
This past Tuesday, October 9, Willis presented his case to the commission and was turned down.
Local residents werent in favor of the Willis plan, particularly John Guarnieri, who lives near the proposed restaurant and
started a petition against the proposal. Guarnieri found an ally in Steps for a Healthier New Orleans, a federally funded program charged with combating obesity, diabetes, and asthma. Dr. Amita Toprani, program director, pointed out to Guarnieri that the fast-food restaurant was only a block away from two schools: Drew Elementary School and Frederick Douglass High School. Toprani and Erin Baker, assistant of director of Tulane Universitys Prevention Research Center and a Steps collaborative partner, believed the restaurant would negatively impact neighborhood kids health.
Both wrote letters in support of Guarnieris petition.
The City Planning Commission staff sided with Willis. If Willis complied with a number of requirements, the staff felt the changes would effectively mitigate the adverse impacts that may result from the proposed use.
Neighborhood residents disagreed and a number of them, including Bakerwho explained that obesity was fast-growing epidemic that had become the number one killertold the commissioners they didnt want another fast-food restaurant. Other residents complained about the traffic congestion and that the fast-food restaurant didnt fit the neighborhoods vision for a new Bywater. Bill Easterling, representing Popeyes Corporation, reiterated that his company was prepared to make a $1 million investment in the Bywater neighborhood.
In the end, the commission ruled in favor of the opponents to the drive-through. Commissioner Robinson said he understood the staffs recommendation, but he agreed with residents that there were adverse impacts they believed could not be overcome.
The proposal will come before the City Council in the next few weeks.