Citizen’s “smoking gun” exposes Lawler’s “bum deal” with Willow Lake residents

Mark Taylor at the Public Speakers’ podium on July 12

Willow Lake Subdivision’s lakes continue to suffer intrusion of silt from Oak Grove Townhomes‘ development to the north.  A regrettable situation which should never have occurred…and would not have if Dantin Bruce Development, LLC was a better corporate neighbor and Willow Lakes’ elected representative had not engineered its plat approval.  Councilman Aaron Lawler was called to account by one citizen at July 12’s EA Drainage District meeting in surgical dissection of the District 7 representative’s misdeeds worthy of the most seasoned prosecutor.

Mark Taylor had the goods on Aaron Lawler who, for once, sat in silence and took his medicine.  There was no defense to the smoking gun, a Lawler email evidencing foreknowledge of “longstanding drainage issues” as he ran a con on his Willow Lake constituents.

“There were a lot of promises made by a lot of people,” Taylor said.  “That was a bum deal.”

Lawler email presented by Mark Taylor

“(Parish President) Clint (Cointment), I would first like to thank you for taking the time to meet with Denise regarding the Willow Lake issues.  As you have learned there are two distinct issues.  1. Long standing (well over 10-15 years) drainage issues and 2. Stormwater issues as the result of the new townhomes.

Since Clint and (CAO) John (Diez) are new, I will start with the drainage issues and will try to be brief.  Westlake Dr. in Jefferson Crossing has serious flooding issues even on a minimal rain event.  Bill Roux told me years ago that he thought it could be fixed for about a million, but it only had a 50/50 chance of working.  I said no.  We retained B(ryan) Hammett (& Associates) to find a solution for the problems.  However, because a larger area has drainage problems I met with him and discussed enlarging the scope of the project to include Charleston and Willow Lake also, which the EADC (EA Drainage District) agreed to do.  This work is ongoing.

One of the issues is that the ponds in Willow Lake are not ‘drainage ponds’ they are aesthetic only.  I am not sure of the status of the project, so I hope (DPW Director) Ron (Savoy)can help in this regard.  Simply put, I am not interested in a solution that does (not?) fix the entire area.  A holistic approach needs to be taken.  To this end, $100,000 is in the possession of the Willow Lake HOA to help alleviate the drainage issue or to help with maintaining the ponds.  Despite what the bloggers an my opposition have said, this money is a useful tool for the HOA.”

The new townhomes referenced by Councilman Lawler, the ones causing Willow Lakes so much consternation, are Oak Grove Townhomes (OGT).

OGT’s preliminary plat was denied on November 8, 2017, about the same time that former EA Drainage chief Bill Roux went on sabbatical prior to his early 2018 retirement.  Appealed to the Parish Council, sitting as the Planning Commission Appeals Board, on February 15, 2018, it was Aaron Lawler who cited the “tenuous argument” that OGT had been denied a non-existent right to rebuttal in November.

February 15, 2018

Lawler made the motion to refer OGT’s plat back to Planning where it would be approved on March 14, 2018, subject to a curious condition.  Commissioner Julio Dumas, claiming to have met “with the councilman and the developer and hear the situation,” offered:

Prior to signing the final plat by the Chairman of the Planning Commission, the applicant must establish an escrow account for the amount determined by a registered civil engineer, not to exceed 100,000 US Dollars, for the sole purpose of adjusting the height of the weir and provide other drainage related improvements under the control of Willow Lake… Funds may only be used by Willow Lake subdivision.

The escrow account must be available for a period not exceed 24 months from the date the final plat is executed and recorded.  In the event Willow Lake fail(s) to complete the lowering of the weir within those 24 months the developer may close  the escrow account and recoup his funds, and shall be relieved of any further obligation.

So, Lawler knew full well that:

  1. “Long standing drainage issues” existed at Willow Lakes, admitting that Bill Roux had informed him “years ago.”  Yet, he still negotiated the plat approval for Oak Grove Townhomes.
  2. Oak Grove Townhomes was rendering those issues more acute, and creating new problems for the Willow Lakes’ lake due to OGT’s stormwater runoff.
  3. “Westlake Drive in Jefferson Crossing has serious flooding issues even on a minimal rain event” but declined to allow any localized corrective action.

“You knew of these issues.  You still advocated for them (Dantin Bruce), knowing that there was a longstanding, 10-15 year drainage issue,” Mark Taylor called Lawler out on July 12.

Councilman Lawler moonlighted as Dantin Bruce’s clerical staff in the four week period between the Council referring OGT back to Planning, and the commission’s March 14, 2018 approval.