Mason: Responsible development “or none at all”

Residential development in Ascension, unrestrained and barely regulated; “out of control subdivision development has compromised the welfare of parish residents and damaged our quality of life.”  That is according to Michael Mason whose decision to seek public office was predicated upon “the will to stand up to developers and secure the health, safety and welfare of citizens of District 11 and Ascension Parish.”

“Traffic and drainage are the most pressing issues, and we all know it,” Mason said.  “In District 11, like the rest of north Ascension, residents are understandably frustrated by gridlocked traffic as the council seems less than eager to adopt changes to the Land Development Code to protect homeowners.”

District 11 was spared the horrific backwater flooding that so devastated areas to the east in 2016.  But “every new subdivision approved elevates large tracts of land.”  While most of District 11 lies outside the flood zone, Mason cited a recent rain event which flooded multiple homes outside the zone as cause for concern.

FEMA Flood Zone map flood zones in blue)

 

District 11 colored pink

“The parish president’s administration has openly declared it favors unlimited fill, everywhere in the parish,” he recounted Planning Director Jerome Fournier’s June 6 defense of President Kenny Matassa’s veto of an ordinance limiting fill to three feet.  “District 11 is not in the flood zone and I will fight to ensure that it never becomes part of the flood zone.”

FEMA is in the process of updating flood maps as Matassa convened a “fill ordinance committee” to replace the one he vetoed.  Mason’s opponent, incumbent Benny Johnson is one of five council members seated on the committee.  Why did the administration and council, including the District 11 incumbent, fail to undertake the work necessary to get it right the first time?

“I think the people of Ascension Parish deserve to know the answer to that question.  As more and more acreage is elevated what does that do to existing flood zones?  I don’t think anyone, not the administration or council, not even these million dollar engineering studies, has considered the question much less answered it,” Mason assessed the inaction since the Great Flood of 2016.  “I, for one, don’t want to wait for the next flood to find out.”

More than 3,000 homes are slated for construction without another subdivision being approved.  The District 11 candidate sounds a note of caution, wondering if those soon to be built subdivisions will change the topography…and the flood zone.

“Four of the last six subdivisions approved are located in District 11,” he said.  “I’ve never heard my opponent take a position, one way or the other, on any of them.”

380 of those approved lots are in, or abutting District 11 (Christy Place subdivision, Jamestown Crossing-Phases I and II, Highland Trace, and Lake at West Creek).  In the wake of Jamestown Crossing’s approval a group of citizens convened to discuss options…

District 7’s Aaron Lawler trying to talk citizens out of Jamestown Crossing suit (the suit to prevent the development was filed but, ultimately, unsuccessful)

Councilman Benny Johnson, true to form, was not present. Dozens of his constituents did attend that meeting, only two of whom even knew Johnson is their council representative.

“Traffic congestion is the constant, residents forced to endure the daily frustration of commutes taking way too long,” Michael Mason said.  “When those homes, already approved, are built it’s going to get even worse.”

Those areas with easier access to I-10 were targeted by development first.  As those areas in northwest Ascension became saturated, developers began looking along Hwy 42 to the east and Hwy 73 to the south.  The City of Gonzales is also enduring boom times with single and multi-family dwellings having been approved by the thousands.

“Those areas simply cannot handle any more development, so subdivision builders are looking elsewhere.  That means District 11 is being targeted and I will propose and work to pass meaningful legislation to ensure any new development is done responsibly, or not at all,” Michael Mason concluded.

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