On Thursday President Clint Cointment introduced an ordinance that would impose a moratorium on development, if adopted by a two-thirds supermajority of the Council. The ordinance would disallow future subdivision of property, both residential and commercial development, for twelve months to allow consideration of five issues:
- Assessment of a potential Drainage Impact Fee
- Density Adjustments
- Address Subdivision Construction Specifications
- Regional Stormwater Detention
- Review of the fill ordinance
It is not the first time Ascension’s elected/appointed officialdom has considered halting development.
Since moratoriums are disfavored by the laws of Louisiana (and everywhere else), they must be for limited duration and tied to some specific issue grave enough to temporarily divest property owners of a sacred right. The specific issues in this case are those outlined (see list above) by the proposed ordinance forwarded by President Cointment’s administration and co-sponsored by two council members; Chase Melancon and Michael Mason.
This is not the first time a moratorium on subdivision development has been proposed in Ascension Parish. Efforts of varying intensity have been made during every presidential tenure since the adoption of Home Rule in 1993.
On November 21, 1996 the Council extended a prohibition against issuance of building permits, effectively a moratorium, for multi-family dwelling (four units or more) “until a Zoning Ordinance can be considered and adopted.” It would be extended again on September 18, 1997 and again on March 19, 1998 when a moratorium against mobile home parks would be added.
On November 25, 1996 East Ascension Drainage Board recommended “a two-month moratorium on residential and commercial subdivision development, excluding family partitions and simple divisions of property” envisioning a four-month extension. The recommendation was forwarded to the Planning Commission which forwarded the endorsement to the Parish Council where it died on the vine.
1999 would see council moratoriums against construction of radio/microwave/cell and other communications towers; against exotic dancing establishments; and against the construction of billboards and off-site signage.
On January 7, 2002 EA Drainage passed a Resolution to the Full Council “to place a moratorium on any development in a floodplain area.” Unfortunately, depending on one’s perspective, the proposed prohibition was unworkable. On February 7, 2002 then DPW Director Bill Roux asked the council to adopt the resolution but the council referred the matter back to EA Drainage “to define flood plain versus non-flood plain.”
By October 13, 2004, questions still unanswered (Roux was still lamenting that Ascension had not defined those floodplains in 2017), the Planning Commission recommended a “3-6 month moratorium on subdivision development” in order to “come up with laws to manage growth.” On November 4, 2004 the Council referred the matter to its Strategic Planning Committee which took it up on December 2, 2004 only to defer action.
A decade then went by without any discussion of moratoriums.
In 2014 the Planning Commission targeted family partitions specifically after identifying a loophole whereby subdivision developers were deemed to have subverted the Unified Land Development Code. The code was tightened up to prevent the practice.
The Planning proposed a moratorium in September of 2015 “to allow the Parish Council to enact Transportation Impact Fees (or not).” The Council introduced a corresponding ordinance on March 17, 2016 but avoided deciding the moratorium question when those Impact Fees were enacted on April 7, 2016.
From the official minutes of the Council’s June 1, 2017 meeting:
“Councilman Lawler made a motion to have a three-month moratorium on placing fill in large and small subdivisions up to 12″. Legal Counsel advised that the ordinance would have to be amended in order to make the change. Councilman Lawler said, in that case, his intent would be to introduce an ordinance at the next meeting. No action was taken.”
And no action would be taken at the next meeting, or the next, or the next…
At June 10, 2019’s meeting of EA Drainage it would be Councilman Travis Turner who moved “to place a six-month moratorium on all subdivision development until the RFQ is completed (for Basins Watershed Study).” But EA Drainage lacks the authority to enact a moratorium so it became a recommendation to the Parish Council which took up the matter ten days later, sort of. They had a discussion of a watered down “moratorium on fill in floodplains” (not on subdivision development, writ large as Turner’s EA Drainage motion envisioned).
Nothing came of the discussion and the Council spent the rest of 2019 haggling over an agreement with Ascension Sewer, LLC for east bank regional sewer treatment; and preparing for reelection bids in October of that year. 2020 was again dominated by a sewer treatment proposal (and COVID-19).
And here we are.
There are significant differences to the current effort at a subdivision moratorium. Most importantly, a presidential administration is behind the effort with overwhelming public support. Needing eight votes (out of 11) on the council, enactment of the moratorium is by no means a fait accompli’ as the council, overall, has proven to be pro-development.
What else could account for its Planning Commission appointees.