Is the fix in? Antebellum Pointe appeal set for Monday

District 4 Councilman Corey Orgeron

Sitting as the Planning Commission Appeals Board, Ascension’s Parish Council will convene a Special Meeting to consider the appeal of Antebellum Pointe on Monday at 6 p.m. in Gonzales.  The subdivision preliminary plat was denied by a 4-3 vote of the Planning Commission on March 11, subsequently appealed on June 5 with 60 days to conduct a hearing.  According to multiple constituents of the District 4 (which includes the proposed subdivision’s acreage) council representative, Corey Orgeron has indicated the denial of Antebellum Pointe will be overturned.

The appeal was filed by Lynn Levy Land Company and The Delaune Family Partnership.  Asked to state why the Commission’s decision was wrong, they wrote:

“Denial was not justified/correct as STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS stated that the proposed plat submittal meets all guidelines for a major subdivision per current ordinance.”

It has long been the practice of “STAFF” to offer opinion, we think erroneously.  The decision to approve/or not is the province of Planning Commissioners…not STAFF.  Otherwise, why have a Planning Commission at all?

Those commissioners in the majority predicated “denial” on traffic concerns when the requisite Traffic Impact Study (TIS) resulted in Level of Service “E” for “at least four of the intersectional approaches.”  Stating the obligatory concerns over “public health, safety and welfare,” the majority also took issue with basing the TIS on yet to be accomplished improvements to Interstate 10.

Appellants addressed the reasoning in their application:

As to the alleged (erroneous) exception of level of service deficiencies noted in the traffic study and ERA report, upon completion (late summer or early fall, 2020) of the 4 to 6 lane (widening) expansion of I-10 by LADOTD, said mitigation measure shall ensure compliance with code requirements for major subdivisions.

Is that an admission that “compliance with code requirements” has not occurred yet?  (See what we mean about STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS)?

Furthermore, Petitioner agrees that the proposed Major Subdivision Preliminary Plat Approval be conditioned thereby preventing grant of Final Plat Approval until the LADOTD I-10 widening is fully completed and operational.

Which would make more sense if an additional traffic study was required after those LADOTD improvements were completed and operational.

Parish President Clint Cointment, who has no say over the appeal, did urge the Council/Appeals Board to reject Antebellum Pointe…He wrote last week:

While the traffic study indicates that the widening of I-10 from its intersection with Hwy 73 in a northbound direction will cure the delays, we cannot be certain that will occur until the actual widening is completed and traffic begins to utilize that section of road.  After the new I-10 lane opens we would suggest another study to determine the actual timing of traffic entering the interstate and also determine any proposed modifications to the traffic signal timing at the intersection of Hwy 621 and Hwy 73.

Parish President recommends denial of Antebellum Pointe subdivision

Cointment also weighed in before the Planning Commission’s March hearing.  The parish president addressed sanitary sewer:

While a major sewer trunk line is located in Hwy 73 and the Parish would demand a connection to that line for any development along that road, the Parish currently has no treatment capacity for influent.  The expanded sewer plant within the Renaissance development will reach capacity upon the connection of the previously approved hospital and school developments.  Additionally, the plant itself cannot be expanded due to the parcel size upon which it is located.  The Parish is considering a major sewer treatment plant that can serve the area but that plant is in the future.  As noted in the Pre-Application meeting, the Parish will accept influent from the proposed subdivision when treatment capacity in a Parish plant is available.

It would take an 8-vote super-majority of the 11-member Appeals Board to approve Antebellum Pointe.  Section 17-4092.1 of Ascension’s Subdivision Regulations includes Paragraph G, which reads:

The action 2/3’s vote of the entire Planning Board of Appeals is final. Any further action shall be commenced in the District Court.

Inartfully crafted it may be (what happens if neither side gets to eight votes; is there no finality?), clearly the requisite number to overturn the Planning Commission’s denial is eight votes.

Historically, great deference has been paid to individual council members whose districts included the subject at issue.  Orgeron has offered no public statement though certain of his constituents are claiming he has expressed the intention to vote for approval.  “It would be illegal to deny the subdivision plat,” one paraphrased Councilman Orgeron.

Orgeron did not take a position during the Planning Commission’s March 11 meeting.  Preparatory to same he responded to one constituent’s email plea for help “to deny the proposal of this subdivision.”  Orgeron replied:

“I too am concerned about traffic that this development as well as the new school and hospital will bring.  As the councilman, I am limited as to what I can do to influence the actions of the Planning and Zoning Commission.  If they deny the matter, then it comes to the full council, at that point I will act with the best interests of our neighbors.”

Playing both sides, Orgeron had engaged one of the property owners five days early when he wrote:

“As you can guess, I’ve already received tons of calls and texts in opposition to the development.  Unlike my predecessor, I am not against new development, but I am for responsible development that works within the concept what is best for the community.  I have some thoughts and would like to talk to Bill (another owner), and then the developer if Bill thinks it would be helpful.”

Orgeron was a no-show at the Planning Commission meeting.  Two of his colleagues, Councilmen Michael Mason and Chase Melancon did show up and oppose Antebellum Pointe on March 11.

Unless the M & M boys have undergone a change of heart, there is little room for Antebellum Pointe to maneuver.  The margin shrinks to nil since Councilman Joel Robert is not expected to attend Monday’s Special Meeting because of a family vacation (Robert was a likely “NO” vote in any event).  The appellant will need every other council vote, and need every other council member to attend.

You can bet that it’s one meeting Corey Orgeron would like to skip.