Readers in Baton Rouge may be familiar with the posh Metairie Club Gardens neighborhood in New Orleans. In an area where the average home price runs in excess of $1 million, the neighborhood homeowners’ association has filed construction litigation to stop further work on a massive new house the organization claims is being built in violation of zoning laws. Court documents claim that the homeowners and the parish planning department gained approval for construction permits using plans that did not accurately represent the completed height of the house.

According to the lawsuit, members of the neighborhood conservation district raised concerns over the proposed height of the new house at a meeting with the parish council. A planning department representative apparently assured the council at a later meeting that the new home would not exceed height restrictions imposed by zoning ordinances. The homeowners’ association estimates that the actual height of the house will exceed zoning limits by five feet.

The lawsuit demands revocation of the building permit and an injunction against any further construction activity until zoning violations are resolved. Rumors have surfaced that informal settlement talks are underway, but an attorney representing the parish could not confirm any settlement discussions.

Municipal governments typically provide an administrative appeal process for parties wishing to challenge decisions regarding permits. In some cases, permit decisions can be directly appealed in civil court, but in other cases, parties are required to exhaust the administrative appeal process before filing suit. Aggrieved parties need to have a good understanding of the complexities of zoning and construction law in order to avoid losing a permit challenge. Louisiana residents also need to be aware of important time limits pertaining to when you can challenge a permit decision.

Source: The Times-Picayune, “Amid $1 million houses, Metairie homeowners sue over enormous home being built,” Bob Ross, July 2, 2012