The content in the image above is paradoxically inaccurate; both casting blame on District 7 incumbent Aaron Lawler unfairly while not being critical enough. The 212-lot subdivision referenced was approved in August of 2015, three months before Lawler prevailed in a runoff election. Approval of the “92 town-homes,” on the other hand, was all his doing.
The Meadows at Oak Grove’s 212 lots were approved by a unanimous Ascension Planning Commission even though “STAFF” withheld its recommendation because:
“The proposed subdivision is generating approx. 6,400-10,000 new trips per day, depending upon the type of commercial that is developed on the Hwy 42 outparcels.”
Oak Grove Townhouses (92 of them) was denied by the Planning Commission on November 8, 2017. Dantin Bruce Development appealed that 4-2 denial to the Parish Council which was scheduled to hear it on February 15, 2018. Councilman Aaron Lawler to the developer’s rescue.
Lacking the honesty and integrity to simply overturn the denial, Lawler moved…
“…to refer this back to the Planning Commission based on irregularities with the prior Commission’s meeting. Certainly we’re not admitting that there were any irregularities, but I am recommending that we move it back to the Planning Commission to prevent any further issues with that…(To correct a potential problem with the developer not getting their rebuttal period)…It’s a tenuous argument and I’m not saying it’s correct. I’m just trying to avoid any further complications with it.”
And, indeed, the fix was in.
Lawler went about his business, moonlighting as Ross Bruce’s (of Dantin Bruce) secretary to coordinate the developer’s negotiation with unhappy neighbors. They would meet with residents and a few Planning Commissioners to concoct the most harebrained condition upon which any preliminary plat has ever been approved in Ascension Parish, which is saying something.
Offered by Commissioner Julio Dumas…
“I’m going to make a motion to approve subject to the following conditions:
Prior to signing the final plat by the Chairman of the Planning Commission, the applicant must establish an escrow account for the amount determined by a registered civil engineer, not to exceed 100,000 US Dollars, for the sole purpose of adjusting the height of the weir and provide other drainage related improvements under the control of Willow Lake… Funds may only be used by Willow Lake subdivision.
The escrow account must be available for a period not exceed 24 months from the date the final plat is executed and recorded. In the event Willow Lake fail(s) to complete the lowering of the weir within those 24 months the developer may close the escrow account and recoup his funds, and shall be relieved of any further obligation.“
The commission reversed itself on March 15, 2018. To date, none of those “drainage related improvements” has come to pass. How many more months before Dantin Bruce can get their $100,000 out of escrow?
As shameful as Lawler’s actions were, he is guilty of even more egregious conduct. East of Oak Grove Townhouses on Hwy 42 is the intersection with Hwy 930. The latter bisects another of Dantin Bruce’s proposed developments, Jamestown Crossing which is the last preliminary plat approved before stringent Traffic Impact Analysis became the law in Ascension.
Aaron Lawler went to extraordinary lengths to delay implementation of new TIA. In early 2017 he joined colleagues, Oliver Joseph and John Cagnolatti in hijacking the issue from Strategic Planning to the Transportation Committee chaired by Lawler.
Eight months elapsed with nothing done until February 2018 when Urban Systems, Inc. appeared before Transportation to discuss potential improvements to TIA. Then it was revealed (by Pelican Post, thank you very much) that the company had already delivered those recommendations to Chief Administrative Officer Ken Dawson on April 15, 2016. Buried by President Kenny Matassa’s administration, no one outside the president’s inner circle seemed to have known.
Not, that is, until Lawler admitted…
that he also buried the report for another ten months or so.
Conveniently(?), the Transportation Committee chair included the final product on his May 2018 agenda with a recommendation to adopt new TIA to the full council, which would happen when a unanimous council enacted the policy in June 2018. In the interim, though, Jamestown Crossing would be approved by the Planning Commission.
Had new TIA been in place, prohibiting approval of any subdivision near an ‘F-rated’ intersection (like the one at Hwy 42/Hwy 930), that Dantin Bruce development could not have been approved. Coincidentally(?), one of Lawler’s closest council allies happened to co-own the property upon which Jamestown Crossing will be built.
District 8’s Teri Casso was among the “Sellers” to Dantin Bruce which paid about $4.25 million for the property.