“I never had a problem with flooding before…and I didn’t need flood insurance,” said one long-time resident of Kennedy Heights Subdivision in Gonzales on Tuesday. Gonzales’ Planning and Zoning Commission which was scheduled to consider two agenda items concerning a proposed subdivision on Orice Roth Rd. The items were pulled but the public comments flowed anyway.
Persistent problems bedeviling Ascension Parish; drainage and traffic, traffic and drainage…have visited the Jambalaya Capital of the World.
The developer is seeking to rezone 10.3 acres to a less restrictive classification in order to build more houses. Approval of Chapelwood Estates’ preliminary plat was also on the agenda. Both items will be rescheduled by the developer because, according to multiple cynics in attendance, a candidate for City Council-Division C on the November 3 ballot enjoys a pecuniary interest in the project.
Willie Robinson is that candidate opposing incumbent Harold Stewart. Robinson attended Tuesday’s meeting but said nothing.
Residents along Orice Roth (west of Burnside Ave which bisects the City of Gonzales) were spared the ravages of August 2016’s devastating back-flooding of the Amite River. But recent flash-flooding events have not been so kind. A July 6 rain event (6.28 inches according to another resident) put water in several homes while less severe events saturate properties for weeks without crossing the door sill.
Rampant subdivision development along Orice Roth and W Worthey Road to the north have transformed the area surrounding Gonzales Middle School.
“Another subdivision?” asked one resident incredulously.
Where will it drain? How much traffic will it generate to an already over-burdened roadway? Questions abound with answers in short supply.
“Off-road drainage is the jurisdiction of Ascension Parish,” CAO Scot Byrd attempted appeasement to a less than enthusiastic reception.
Byrd promised to contact Ascension Parish Public Works Director Ron Savoy, and include residents in the discussion. Drainage on the parish’s east bank, even inside two municipalities, is the province of East Ascension Drainage Board which is funded by a perpetual sales tax and a 5-mill property assessment. The board is comprised of ten Ascension Parish Council members.
Recent calculations put the city’s annual contribution at approximately $3.5 million while total revenue generation hovers above $20 million.
“That’s the reality of the situation,” explained Councilman Harold Stewart, attending on Tuesday along with Councilman Tyler Turner. “The city bears a heavy burden funding East Ascension Drainage every year, more than the rest of the parish on a per capita basis. The best path forward is a better working relationship with the parish and I’m committed to establishing that relationship.”
Stewart has made drainage issues a priority during his five year tenure…
Two members of the East Ascension Drainage Board, Parish Councilmen Travis Turner and John Cagnolatti, also represent residents in the City of Gonzales. It is exceedingly rare to see either at a City Council or Planning Commission meeting.
“It’s past time for city government to listen to the people of Gonzales who are facing these serious issues,” asserted Tim Riley, a candidate for City Council-Division A. “Who knows local drainage and flooding problems better than residents forced to worry about there homes every time it rains? It’s something I hear every day on the campaign trail.”
Riley is opposing incumbent David Guitreau who was out knocking doors on Tuesday and did not attend the meeting.
Fixing the problems confronting much of east bank Ascension, including Gonzales and the Town of Sorrento, is no easy task. Sorrento has its own issues with East Ascension Drainage Board…
Allocation of resources, how and where to spend drainage dollars, is up to the Drainage Board…period. Seven of its membership do not represent any parts of two municipalities, and have no political incentive to placate Gonzales and/or Sorrento residents/voters.