Pres Kabacoff, the developer of a 200,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter in the historic Lower Garden District of New Orleans, has two new suits to try on. On July 19th, citizens groups filed two lawsuits against Kabacoff’s suburban nightmare. The first suit was filed in state Civil District Court against the City of New Orleans. The second suit named the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Housing Authority of New Orleans. Both legal actions are suing on a variety of procedural violations. The suit charges that the City Council attached 40 provisos on the supercenter project with no opportunity for review by the public or its own City Planning Commission — which had come up with its own 33 conditions. The mixed-use planned community district requirements also say that a project must be “compatible with the character of the neighborhood,” which this intensity of development and style of building is not. Attorney Bill Borah, the head of Smart Growth for Louisiana, told reporters: “Give us a store that reflects Louisiana, not one that reflects suburbia.” The lawsuits also charge that the city has failed to adopt a long-term master plan for development of the city, in violation of the city’s Charter. According to Borah, the massive Wal-Mart supercenter is “a suburban style development the size of 5 football fields slated for a National Register Historic District.” The project was also subsidized by city taxpayers in a classic case of voodoo economics. Borah says the City, HUD and HANO “have blatantly ignored existing laws.” Plaintiffs in the suit include Smart Growth for Louisiana, the Coliseum Square Association, the Louisiana Landmarks Society, the Historic Magazine Row Association, and the Urban Conservancy. The out of scale project has engendered bitter controversy in New Orleans, including revelations that the developer hired local activists, paying them large retainers, to testify on behalf of the project.
The filing of a state and a federal lawsuit guarantees that for at least the next year, the good times are not going to roll for Wal-Mart in Louisiana. For more background on this modern day “Battle of New Orleans”, search this Newsflash page by “New Orleans”.