On May 20 President Clint Cointment introduced an ordinance including “a twelve month moratorium on any future subdivision of property” to Ascension’s Parish Council. That 11-member panel will, we’ve been alerted, discuss/amend/shorten/water down and otherwise consider Cointment’s proposed legislation at the Council’s June 3 Regular Meeting, with a vote on the ultimate ordinance on June 17. Word is that elements of the council will “test the moratorium’s legality” in an attempt to derail it without casting a “NAY” vote.
Full-throated support, without incessant chirping and cheap-shottery from the anti-Cointment council contingent…simply not going to happen. Who knows what Councilman Corey Orgeron’s position will be much less what nonsense he might spew…
And there are council members, like the chairwoman, who play things closer to the vest but oppose development moratoriums on principle. Make no mistake, she is no fan of President Cointment though she holds her tongue…in public at least. Get her alone, or engage the chairwoman in the semi-privacy of an email thread on her parish-provided account, and watch out.
Explaining her “stand” to an inquisitive citizen who happens to profit from new construction, Chairwoman Teri Casso wrote (via email on May 18):
It’s being introduced. We will spend 2 weeks working out the details. The time line will be tight with clear objectives. Personally I hate moratoriums but I acknowledge that this weather is continuing to happen more frequently 3 times in less that (sic) 10 years. We have to get a team of professionals to looking at what we are doing! I’ve fought a moratorium for a decade. Now I’m getting my life threatened literally over developement (sic). Clint sprung this on us today. I’m furious about that I have made that very clear. The introduction will get unanimous approval. The final document will develope (sic) over the next 2 weeks more likely 4 as I don’t intend to vote on this issue in Donaldsonville. You need to come and voice your concerns and opinion what ever it may be.
The next day Casso replied to a well known subdivision developer’s lengthy email:
I share your concerns. I am concerned about fairness so my position is that all development including family partitions and simple divisions result in houses. I want fairness. No exceptions. No sheds that block drainage no renovations that change the original footprint of a house. If Developers have to pause then everyone has to pause. Shared pain. We have work to do. We need to do it quickly. There is some room for compromise but no room in my mind to penalize one sector over the other. There is ample opportunity in the next two weeks to work together to accomplish a time line that encourages prompt action on the part of the administration.
Which elicited the following from that well-known developer:
Thanks Councilwoman-we’ve all shared enough pain last year. Enforce the existing ordinances-this isn’t the fault of developers. Landowners in Ascension have no property rights when government continuously change the rules. It’s ridiculous.
I agree. I encourage anyone who is injured in this to seek legal counsel. As all of you know I have been an opponent of moratorium for over a decade. My head says no. But…the context requires action. I am committed to the shortest possible moratorium equally shared.
If you were taken aback by any elected official urging a lawsuit against the taxpaying public he/she is elected to represent, consider Casso’s recent social media post (see image above). Defending her vote to approve a twice-denied subdivision (Antebellum Pointe) in settlement of a lawsuit against the parish, Casso hoped for “a boat load of damages” to be satisfied by the taxpayers of Ascension Parish.
Cointment’s proposal is by no means a sure thing and, even if it garners the necessary 8-vote supermajority, don’t be surprised if the final version is watered down. The president’s moratorium is intended to afford time to consider and implement (or not) five objectives, the 12 months time frame:
- Assessment of a potential Drainage Impact Fee
- Density Adjustments
- Address Subdivision Construction Specifications
- Regional Stormwater Detention
- Review of the fill ordinance
Councilman Aaron Lawler has opined that others should be added, one deleted. He also favored a 3-6 month moratorium in a boiler plate response to multiple emailers:
I support the concept of the moratorium, but I am still questioning why the president has not acted on any of these things during the first year and a half, why there is no budget for the studies he wants and why there is no plan for this. It seems poorly thought out. I am concerned this is just a political stunt for Facebook. A moratorium won’t solve anything without actual work that will improve drainage which thus far he has not proven capable of. Moreover, if drainage was such a concern for him, I would like him to explain why he extended the deadline to complete a master drainage plan, which we are in desperate need of, by 6 months…thus delaying drainage project for 6 months. Equally as important, it is my opinion that the drainage impact studies required by the parish are inadequate. Why this was not included in the moratorium is beyond me. It seems to be evidence that this moratorium was thought up the night of the flooding and is simple political opportunism. I am working to add “Review and Revision of Drainage Impact Studies”.
All that being said, I support the concept of a moratorium, having proposed three before this, but it has to be done the right way. I will ask for the changes indicated above, plus elimination of the retention pond evaluation, as that is redundant considering the ongoing drainage master plan and that the moratorium be 3- 6 months plus the option of extending monthly for a total of 12 months provided the Parish President proves progress toward the goals on a monthly basis. This needs to be about problem solving, not making cheap political statements.
And who knows more about “cheap political statements” than Councilman Lawler? Orgeron, maybe.
Each and every council member has the ability to suggest any amendment he/she wishes before the moratorium ordinances up/down vote which appears to be on track for the June 17 Council meeting in Gonzales.