Opponents of a massive Wal-Mart supercenter approved by the New Orleans City Council in April are fighting the so-called “done deal” on several fronts.
A coalition of organizations has filed two lawsuits challenging the decision. The plaintiffs include Smart Growth for Louisiana, the Coliseum Square Association, the Louisiana Landmarks Society, the Historic Magazine Row Association, and the Urban Conservancy.
One case in federal court charges that HUD’s local agency, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, failed to comply with regulations governing the use of HOPE VI funds and violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.
A second suit in state court charges that the City Council violated its own rules when it threw out 31 conditions for the project set by the City Planning Commission and replaced them with provisions favored by Wal-Mart without input from the public or the Planning Commission.
Meanwhile, opponents are organizing a letter-writing campaign to the State Bond Commission, which must approve the creation of a special Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district and issue $30 million in bonds for the construction of the store. The financing essentially amounts to a 38 percent reduction in Wal-Mart’s property tax bill, a subsidy opponents say is unavailable to locally owned businesses and threatens the city’s budget.
The Urban Conservancy has also requested that Congressman William Jefferson initiate a federal review of the project which is financed largely by HOPE VI funds.