To hear three Planning Commissioners tell it, they are merely innocent bystanders as more and more subdivision are approved in Ascension Parish. Three more, adding up to 568 residential lots, were rubber-stamped at their December 9 meeting in Gonzales. Commissioners Matt Pryor, Gasper Chifici, and Jackie Callender delivered individual monologues just before approving the third.
Below is Matt Pryor’s unedited soliloquy:
“We’ve had two subdivisions, one very large, that are directly tied to major arteries, major state arteries in this parish that are important arteries because not only are residentially-based, in the situation of Hwy 73 to one of our biggest schools, or three big schools sit right there. They’re also direct access to a large part of the industry in the parish.
And I hear, and sympathize, with all the people who have spoken regarding the traffic situation. I live in Dutchtown myself. Getting here on any given evening is a challenge, facing the traffic that’s on 74 backed up from 73, just trying to get through that light. And it’s frustrating because we’re limited in what we can do on this commission.
We look at these subdivisions and determine if they meet the requirement that our parish council lays out. But the traffic impact study reaches far beyond that. And it’s a state issue with regard to these highways in particular, and the other highways that are in our parish.
And I would really like to see our representatives and senators, especially the newly-elected ones, to come to these meetings and hear the outcry of the people that are directly affected by this.
We all moved into subdivisions that were at one point new subdivisions, and are now older subdivisions as the new ones come in. It’s an ongoing issue that is not going to get resolved just by, ‘well, we’ve been talking about it.’ Cuz we’ve been talking about 44 for however long. We’ve been talking about 73 for a number of years. The interchange at 74 has been an issue for ten or 12 years and there’s been no progress toward that.
And it’s incumbent on our state officials to get those projects done, and to get with DOTD to relieve that congestion.
So, the frustration is there and I empathize with it. Our limited ability, however, is to approve these subdivisions as proposed if they meet the planning code that our parish council lays out. And if they do, then we really don’t have a choice but to go along with them and to approve them; Even though we know there’s going to be problems down the road as both of these subdivisions, I think, will create.”
After yielding the floor to one of his colleagues Pryor resumed:
“The developers that purchase these lands have an economic interest in those lands, putting them in commerce. Which is not inherently wrong. They have a right and an expectation, that if they follow the rules, if they follow the law, they can put that land into commerce.
And if we, as a commission, said ‘well, you followed the rules but we can’t abide by what you want to do,’ then I think we are not only doing a disservice to the law that’s passed but, stepping way outside of our duties and way outside of what we are sworn to do.”