O’Neil Parenton’s attempt to game the system nothwithstanding, Louisiana’s Attorney General opined that Ascension’s Planning Commission could be stripped of its power to approve subdivision preliminary plats by amendment of the Home Rule Charter. The AG opined nine months after receiving Ascension’s request that posed two questions:
- Can Ascension Parish Council through a Charter Amendment make the Planning Commission advisory only for consideration of Major and Minor Subdivision approvals?
- Would a vote to override the decision of the Planning Commission require a two-thirds vote as provided by La. R.S. 33:109?
As to No. 1, the Council has no authority to amend the Charter which can only be accomplished by a vote of Ascension’s people. The AG wrote:
“(P)ursuant to Section 4-18 of the Charter, the Council must create (and has created) a planning commission endowed with all of the powers and duties set forth in general state law, and the Council may not limit those powers. Louisiana Attorney General Opinion No. 03-0110, which directly addressed the powers of the Planning Commission, stated that the powers granted to the Planning Commission are those set by state law ‘unless and until the charter is amended to provide otherwise.’ It should therefore be clear that the powers of the Planning Commission may not be lessened except by an amendment to the Charter adopted by the voters of Ascension Parish.”
Of course, we all knew the charter could be amended to divest the Planning Commission of any power deemed appropriate by the voters of Ascension. Parenton, unless he is even more incompetent than he’s demonstrated, knew it too. Drafting a request which cited five Revised Statutes in what we believe an attempt to rig the outcome, he omitted the dispositive one, La. R.S. 33:103(F) which reads:
“Where a parish or municipality has adopted a charter for local self-government or other home rule charter and such charter provides for the establishment of a planning commission… In such case, any parish or municipality with a home rule charter may avail itself of the power and authority granted herein to a planning commission; however, nothing herein shall diminish any power or authority already granted by a home rule charter or other law.”
It could not be much clearer. We believe Ascension voters, given the opportunity, would overwhelmingly take approval power over subdivisions away from the Commission, and charge the elected council with that responsibility. O’Neil Parenton has attempted to rig the outcome against the peoples’ wishes at every stage.
The AG’s office, which has done little to inspire confidence, was not fooled by Parenton’s slight of hand. Responding to the second question (see above), the AG conflated the two, characterizing the request as seeking…
“…an opinion concerning whether the Ascension Parish Council may amend the Home Rule Charter to opt out of the requirement of La. R.S. 33:109(A) that a two-thirds vote of the legislative body is required to overrule a subdivision disapproval by the Planning Commission.”
Parenton’s question sought only an interpretation of the operative statute, not whether it could be obviated by charter amendment. Nobody had urged that question and we are unable to discern any legitimate reason for its inclusion in Parenton’s request. Furthermore, it is beyond the Council’s power to amend the Home Rule Charter which can only be accomplished by a vote of the people…period.
Eight members can vote to place such a charter amendment on the ballot, but that is all. It is beyond argument that the people of Ascension Parish could amend the charter at the ballot box, divesting the Planning Commission of subdivision approval authority. We believe voters would take such action overwhelmingly if the Council put the question up for vote.
We are certain that the current council (the District 4 representative excluded) will not do so.