Lawsuit over Monroe renovations dismissed
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 14:04
A lawsuit filed against Loyola University combatting renovation plans for Monroe Hall has finally been settled.
The verdict: Loyola retains its rights to continue renovating Monroe Hall as it sees fit, per existing architectural plans, which Calhoun Street resident John Fenn French believed violated both his privacy rights and an agreement he said was made with the university 50 years ago.
New Orleans Civil Court Judge Kern Reese, presiding over the case, however, dismissed the lawsuit filed by French, citing “exceptions of vagueness, lack of procedural capacity and no rights of action.”
University officials and French both declined to comment on the conclusion of the case.
French originally filed the lawsuit on Aug. 5, 2010 seeking declaratory judgment — a judgment that declares the rights, duties or obligations of one or more parties in a dispute without ordering any action by a party. He said the university sullied a mutual agreement made with French’s grandfather, Darwin Fenner, some 50 years ago.
The agreement, according to French, prohibited the university from extending Monroe Hall itself and the windows on the side of the building facing Calhoun past a certain height.
This pact, consequently, would ensure the privacy of residents living along Calhoun Street, according to French. Loyola’s recent renovation plans, however, did not comply with this alleged agreement, he said. Plans call for the addition of two stories to Monroe, a rooftop courtyard overlooking residents and windows facing Calhoun Street, which French said would intrude into his family’s privacy.
When brought to the university’s attention, officials refuted French’s claim and questioned whether such an agreement actually existed. Architects continued prepping renovations and scheduled an approval meeting with the City Planning Board of Zoning Adjustments, despite French’s claim.
According to court reports, French, having learned about the meeting, notified the board of his objections and asked for the delay before filing petition for declaratory judgment prior to filing the suit.
French, university officials and architects finally met July 14, 2011, to discuss several ideas for a compromise, according to court reports. Some suggestions included installing small, louvered windows on the Calhoun Street side, using that side of Monroe hall primarily for faculty offices and planting a row of trees that would create a vision barrier, among other changes, to limit the view.
The proposed changes were not enough, according to French. He remained unhappy, stating that the plan ultimately did not resolve the issue of privacy for his family.
“There are a lot of things you could do besides making big, giant, numerous windows overlooking my children’s bedrooms,” he said in an interview with The Maroon last October. “It’s offensive.”
The lawsuit continued. French presented his argument to the court and Loyola’s cousel countered on Feb. 10, maintaining that they could not properly prepare a defense to French’s petition because it was too vague, general and indefinite. After much consideration, Reese granted Loyola’s appeal and officially dismissed the case March 5.
French said in an interview with The Times-Picayune that he was disappointed in the decision delivered by Reese, but that his intentions, when filing the lawsuit, were never to stop renovations on Monroe Hall. Instead, he simply wanted to open up reasonable dialogue with the university to find a solution for his privacy concerns.
Craig Malveaux can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org