The huge Port Marigny development proposal in Mandeville has been revived in the settlement of a lawsuit developers brought against the city after it shot down investors’ plans in 2017.
The settlement, called a consent judgement, was filed into the record in federal court in New Orleans late Tuesday (April 2). In its broadest sense, it opens the door for the controversial project under an ordinance the Mandeville City Council adopted late last year.
Under terms of that ordinance, the number of residential dwellings at the mixed-use development is capped at 350, but says that number is not an “entitlement,” meaning there could be fewer residences if certain conditions are not met. It also authorizes up to 36,000 square feet of commercial space, including restaurants, and spells out various approvals developers must receive from the Mandeville Planning and Zoning Commission.
The consent judgement notes that the ordinance sets building heights at 35 feet to 48 feet, depending on where it’s built. Buildings up to 65 feet high would be allowed in some spots with Planning and Zoning Commission approval. The consent judgement also gives the developers five years to obtain a city building permit and says the court will resolve future disputes.
While Mayor Donald Villere said in a news release late Tuesday that the judgement relieves the city of paying damages, the consent agreement says the city’s insurer will pay “a certain sum of money … as directed by the plaintiffs’ attorneys” to the developers.
City Councilman David Ellis on Wednesday (April 3) acknowledged that the consent judgement is likely to be criticized by some who think the city is giving in. When the council adopted the ordinance last year some in the audience argued it gave too much power to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
But Ellis said the council will still have oversight on some key matters, such as if developers sought more than 350 residences. The consent judgement also does not include a hotel.
“There’s going to be some arguments,” he said. “But I think it’s a win for all.”
Ellis said the new guidelines allow fewer homes and a smaller commercial footprint, which were two of the most pressing concerns he heard citizens voice.
The Port Marigny development has steeped in controversy since it was pitched in 2015 for the former Pre-Stressed Concrete industrial site, long dormant, that stretches from Monroe Street to Lake Pontchartrain. The owners, Drs. Michael and Marcus Pittman, unveiled one of the largest development’s in the city’s modern history: a $180 million residential-commercial project with businesses, a hotel and more than 400 residences modeled after a traditional neighborhood.
The settlement, which an attorney for the city acknowledged last week was in the works, came just as the case was to go to trial in U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s court in New Orleans.
In separate news releases and interviews Tuesday evening, Villere and the developers said they were happy to put the litigation behind them.
“I am grateful to have this matter concluded and to end the considerable expenditure of legal expenses this controversy has caused our city,” Villere said.
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune reported last September that the city had been billed more than $400,000 for legal representation in the Port Marigny matter during the two-year period ending April 2017. Once the suit was filed, the city’s insurer covered legal fees stemming from the city’s defense of the lawsuit.
The developers, in a news release, noted that consent judgement allows them to move forward “in compliance with city requirements and still with review by the Planning and Zoning Commissions.’’
“Port Marigny will be a good thing for the city and for the people of our community,” said Dr. Michael Pittman, who with his brother has owned the site for more than 30 years.
James Hartman, a spokesman for Port Marigny, said Tuesday that developers are happy to comply with the city’s regulations and that construction could begin “in a couple years.”