A reader recently asked me to comment on the proposed Port Marigny development in his home town of Mandeville, Louisiana. The master plan is a standard New Urbanist TND (Traditional Neighborhood Development) that attempts to simulate many of the qualities of historic towns – in this case drawing from nearby New Orleans. I would have enjoyed visiting in person, but for now I’m limited to virtual adventures via Google.
The site is a defunct cement plant on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The owner of the property no doubt wants to capitalize on prime waterfront land by developing it to a higher value use.
I took a Google stroll around the immediate neighbors to see what the existing landscape was like. To the east is Hermitage On The Lake, an upscale subdivision of large homes on generous lots with neatly tended lawns and plenty of trees and open space.
On the northeast corner of the site is a more modest post WWII residential neighborhood of ranch style tract homes and the local elementary school.
Due north is a fair amount of wooded and lightly developed land with a sprinkling of simple homes.
To the west a similar chunk of lakefront has already been developed with a cluster of marina style apartment and condo complexes separated by large open lawns.
Okay, now that I understand the lay of the land – without ever setting foot in this community or knowing anything about it – I’ll make a list of what concerned citizens and elected officials are likely to think of the proposed Port Marigny development.
#1 It’s too dense! There are entirely too many units crammed into this tiny site! No!
#2 There isn’t enough green open space or nature! They’re trying to build a concrete jungle! No!
#3 This kind of development will burden our quiet streets with traffic – and our roads are already too congested! No!
#4 There isn’t enough off street parking! Strangers will park their cars in front of nearby respectable family homes! No!
#5 There are apartments and rental properties that will attract the wrong element! No!
#6 This is a completely inappropriate location for a hotel! No!
#7 This “New Urbanist” crap is completely out of character with the existing community! No!
#8 Think of the children! No!
So… This is the existing neighborhood character that opponents are so desperate to maintain in their community. How many people show up at City Hall passionately demanding that the planned gas station or self storage facility be denied permission? This is what the locals cherish. Muffler shops. Drive thru burger joints. Used car lots. Strip malls with nail salons and chain sandwich shops.
I’m inclined to let the NIMBYs have their way and squash the project. Let Port Marigny get watered down into a standard executive waterfront gated community instead. Let it be another cluster of golf view condos. Let it be more strip malls. Better yet, tie up absolutely any development in red tape for years and leave the land fallow for as long as possible. The site is in the flood zone. Why would anyone want to build anything at sea level in Louisiana at this point? Why push on a string? If randomly dispersed homes and generic retail pods are really the kind of environment the townspeople prefer… Mazel tov.