Granting this variance, you’re basically bailing out the developer who specifically did something he was instructed not to do. At what point to we just…not continue to roll over? – Planning Commissioner Aaron Chaisson.
The developer referred to by Commissioner Chaisson is longtime Ascension mover and shaker, Grady Melancon. Melancon’s company came to the Planning Commission a while back seeking to build campsites along one of the many canals traversing St. Amant. He was granted permission, with the caveat that no roads could be built. Since he’s used to doing as he pleases, the road was built.
Variances were granted to validate the already subdivided acreage still presented as campsites. Then Melancon’s company sold two of the subdivided lots to builder, Greg Swanson who then built two houses on lots reserved for camps. Unsurprisingly Melancon’s engineer is Deric Murphy…
Murphy came before the Commission on Wednesday, tugging at its heartstrings in an attempt to gain sympathy for the unwitting prospective homeowners. They had tied “their life savings” up in the purchase which could not be closed upon, you see.
How much could they have spent if the deal could not be finalized?
None of the commissioners asked that question.
Commissioner Julio Dumas noted that the campsites were supposed to be accessible by water only “without a public road.” And now the interested parties are seeking an address accessible by the road. For that a variance is necessary.
Chaisson invoked Section 17-4093(B)(4) of Ascension’s Unified Land Development Code which controls granting of the variance requested.
There must be a showing of unnecessary hardship. (T)he hardship complained of cannot be self-created; nor can it be established on this basis by one who purchases with or without knowledge of the restrictions.
According to Parish Planner Eric Poche:
Mr. Melancon caused the hardship.
How many times could that phrase have been used over the last several decades in Ascension Parish?
Greg Swanson was on hand to plead “my clients'” case, singing the same sad song as Deric Murphy. Swanson appears to be the party who stands to lose his shirt, having built the homes that could not be sold.
Initially, the vote was a 3-3 tie with Chairman Matthew Pryor abstaining due to a conflict of interest (we hear he is representing one of the prospective home buyers). Chaisson was joined by Wade Schexnaydre and Tony Christy; opposing Dumas, Morrie Bishop and Ken Firmin.
Whether it was the Christmas spirit of generosity or something else, Schexnaydre would soon regret his vote and seek a do over. He and Christy switched sides and, once again, the Rule of Law in Ascension Parish does not apply to Grady Melancon.