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Not so lofty

City Council says development can't be higher than 50 feet

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  Developer Sean Cummings will be allowed to build his proposed Elisio Lofts residential/retail project at 501 Elysian Fields Ave., near the riverfront — but it will be scaled down significantly, due to a City Council vote last week. Following the recommendation of District C Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, in whose district the mixed-use project will be built, council members voted unanimously Sept. 6 to limit the height of the structure to a maximum of 50 feet. It originally was designed to top out at 74 feet.

  Elisio Lofts drew fierce criticism from the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association (FMIA), whose primary objection was the height — 24 feet above what the district's zoning allows — but the project was overwhelmingly approved by the City Planning Commission (CPC). In its accompanying report, the CPC cited the 2005 Riverfront Vision Plan's recommendation that certain major roads, including Elysian Fields Avenue, could accommodate increased height maximums. The Riverfront Vision Plan has been incorporated into the current redraft of the city's Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO), but, as FMIA members have repeatedly pointed out, a new CZO has yet to be adopted into city ordinance.

  "I'm not comfortable with approving a project that would create a precedent for 75 feet," Palmer said, criticizing the CPC for prematurely adopting the Riverfront Vision Plan's height recommendation as a guideline. "Until we get a handle on [zoning] enforcement ... we have to rebuild trust (with neighbors)," Palmer said. "We're still in that process." — Charles Maldonado

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