A tough night for Melancon as Commission holds firm on Riverton and Buzzard Roost

“If you actually watch the (March 9, 2016) meeting it’s not confusing at all,” assured Planning Commissioner Aaron Chaisson about Riverton Subdivision’s 780-lot preliminary plat approval.  “I don’t know why we’re even discussing it.”

Riverton’s developer, the Grady Melancon-owned SLC, LLC, was still negotiating with the parish on the morning of the plat’s consideration five years ago, ultimately garnering a 4-2 vote to approve.  The 2016 commission (which included three members still serving on Wednesday) suspended the requirement on every other development to include a Traffic Impact Study (TIS) because Melancon did not like the one he had in hand.

The TIS requirement was only delayed by a condition imposed on the approval, the requisite study triggered by the sale/occupancy of 168 lots.

Riverton Subdivision plat conditions are clear; what is there to review?

While drainage and sewer treatment issues remained to iron out, traffic took up the bulk of commission’s consideration back then.  Anticipated to generate 7,000 daily trips, the 780-lot development’s TIS indicated necessary improvements at the intersection of Hwy 22 and Hwy 44; and every intersection heading north up to and including Hwy 44’s intersections with Interstate 10 inside the City of Gonzales.

Former Parish Engineer Bob Turner estimated $50 million worth of roadway improvements would be necessary to offset adverse impact by Riverton and other developments.  Unsurprisingly, Turner would not last much longer in the parish’s employ.  It was a deal-killer because Melancon did not want to spend the necessary dollars to mitigate his subdivision behemoth’s adverse traffic impact.

He still doesn’t.

Delaying the TIS five years may end up being a bad move for the longtime developer as a more restrictive policy was enacted by the Parish Council in 2018.  Existing Levels of Service on studied roadways, if below the “D” (which some are around Riverton) mandate improvements.

In the case where the existing Levels of Service is below “D”, the required mitigating improvements shall improve the LOS to “D” or better…

APPLICANTS will be responsible for the cost and implementation of identified improvement(s) to mitigate the traffic impact of their proposed development unless funding can be provided through a grant mechanism.

If traffic mitigation is part of an approved Traffic Impact Analysis, all approved traffic improvements must be implemented prior to issuance of an occupancy permit, unless otherwise provided for in the TIA Approval Letter and/or DOTD Letter of Compliance that it is to be completed within construction of a subsequent phase.

Talk about being hoist on one’s own petard.  Riverton applied for Final Plat approval for its 2nd-5th Filings earlier this year.

“Before approval we’ll need to have a traffic study before us and a roundabout will be in place,” stated Commission Chairman Matthew Pryor on Wednesday.

DOTD is requiring the roundabout after 478 lots are sold, but the 2016 conditional approval required it after “95 lots are constructed and occupied.”  Pryor would go on to opine that the current Traffic Impact Policy, the more stringent one, should be invoked though he deferred to legal counsel.  An opinion is pending.

From December 2017

A second Grady Melancon subdivision, Buzzard Roost (Industrial Park)-1st Filing came before the commission on Wednesday.  Seeking a Major Revision, Melancon refused to comply with two conditions attached to the plat approval.

“The preliminary plat is the 1st filing of an anticipated larger industrial development. The 1st filing consists of +/-121.75 acres containing 48 lots ranging in size from 1 acre to 8.7 acres.”  The plat approval was subject to eight conditions, among them are two which “present a problem for Mr. (Grady) Melancon…

  1. There be no open ditches, with the street section containing curb and gutter.  Mr. Melancon has expressed his refusal to comply with this request and that he be allowed to proceed with the variance for the open ditch street section submitted.
  2. The developer shall have alleys along the rear of these commercial parcels to enhance circulation, denying the waiver request.  (Refused for same reason stated above).

Ascension’s development code requires both items and Melancon requested the same variance he sought, unsuccessfully, on January 13.  He was disappointed again on Wednesday as a unanimous commission rejected his request.

Melancon asked for an outright denial of the original plat (not just the Major Revision) or the grant of a waiver.  He likes his chances better with the Parish Council, convened as the Planning Commission Appeals Board where it would require an 8-vote (out of 11) supermajority to overturn the commission.

All in all a tough night for Melancon.