Former parish Planning Director drafting impact fees for Sorrento, subdivision moratorium extended

Ricky Compton (l) and Town Attorney Matthew Percy confer with Mayor Mike Lambert after Tuesday council meeting.

Sorrento’s council adopted new “Development and Zoning” on Tuesday with the able assistance of former Ascension Parish Planning Director Ricky Compton.  The Code of Ordinances was reconfigured with a restatement of the town’s development code and Zoning Tables to conform to the parish’s, which makes sense given that Ascension does permitting for Sorrento.  Compton was also tasked with drafting Impact Fee regulations by the Council which extended an existing moratorium on “major and minor subdivisions” by three months.

According to the former Parish Planning Director a Traffic Impact Fee ordinance has already been drafted.  The Council wants to consider other areas of infrastructure in need of funding to offset the impact of future development.

“It’s coming,” assured Mayor Mike Lambert.  “New developments are going to bring new people, and new problems.”

Lambert cited Orange Grove, a proposed subdivision that was going to be situated along Hwy 22 west of old Sorrento on acreage annexed into the town over a decade ago, as a learning experience.  That deal fell through but a potential buyer emerged last year, eyeballing the acreage to purchase at bargain basement prices.

“It was well before my time but we’ve been informed the vacant land intended for that subdivision has been, or will soon be, purchased,” said Councilman Donald Schexnaydre in March 2018.  “Whatever deal the town worked out a decade ago fell through and we have to protect the Town of Sorrento’s interests.”

Renaissance Orange Grove LLC  had agreed to pay $150,000 to Sorrento which annexed the property in the mid-2000’s.  The developer, owned by Paul Gerwin of Santa Fe, NM, reneged on the final $100,000 that was supposed to offset anticipated burdens on fire and police protection.  Proposed as a 349-home, 134-acre subdivision, Orange Grove had sold only 35 lots as of 2011 when defaulting on its obligation.

Sorrento’s Police Department has since been abolished.  The Fire Department is building a new house on John LeBlanc Blvd.

“We are a small community and such a large development could overwhelm our precarious infrastructure if we aren’t careful,” Schexnaydre explained his vote 16 months ago.  “We’ve been fortunate enough to have Mr. Compton’s services.”

The moratorium derailed any development on the cheap by a shrewd vulture intent on picking over the Orange Grove corpse.

As of July 1, 2018 the US Census Bureau estimated Sorrento’s population at 1,667.  The prospect of a new subdivision which could increase that population by about 50% was cause for concern.

Who better than Compton to draft those protective zoning regulations?  Once accomplished he turned his attention to impact fees.

Had Ascension Parish utilized his expertise from the outset, instead of appointing a Finance Subcommittee to waste three years…

Council adopts 10-year old Impact Fee ordinance

the parish’s Transportation Impact Fees could have been accomplished in a much timelier fashion.  Compton confirmed that Sorrento’s council will consider the fees in a broad range of infrastructure areas in addition to traffic.