Gonzales Commission rejects rezone/preliminary plat for proposed subdivision

On Monday the City of Gonzales’ short-handed Planning and Zoning Commission rejected the application to rezone 11 acres neighboring Gonzales Middle School along with the preliminary plat drawn with approval in mind.  Since rezoning can only be accomplished by adoption of an ordinance by the City Council, the applicant for Chapelwood Estates could proceed to the city’s legislative authority, with minimal chances of success.

Chairman Frank Cagnolatti and Commissioner Eddie Williams did not attend Monday’s meeting.  The votes were unanimous as Commissioners Scott Hughes, Doug Gautreau and John Lanoux all opposed Chapelwood Estates’ rezone application and preliminary plat.

Mayor Barney Arceneaux’s administration recommended approval of the zoning request and the 39-lot subdivision plat.  That is according to Chief Administrative Officer Scot Byrd.  Once the rezone was rejected, the plat[‘s 39 lots exceeded allowable density under current zoning.

Two sitting council members, Harold Stewart and Neal Bourque, along with Councilman-Elect Tim Riley attended Monday’s meeting.  Stewart, reelected to the Division C council seat in a runoff Saturday, and Riley seemed satisfied with the commission’s action though without commenting.  They will be sworn into office in January while Bourque opted against a reelection bid.

“It is clear that neighboring residents oppose this development, whether rezoned to allow greater density or not,” Tim Riley would say after the meeting.  “I certainly share their concerns, drainage issues in that part of the city have to be resolved to ensure existing residents are protected.”

Two major rain events, the first in July, caused home flooding.  Multiple citizens described worsening drainage in the area which has witnessed significant residential and commercial development in recent years.  Quality Engineering’s Jeff Loup was on hand to argue that its Drainage Impact Study ensured that “runoff should actually be an improvement because less water will be leaving this property.”

A recently adopted ordinance requires Drainage Impact Studies with subdivision preliminary plats, vetted by Ascension Parish’s Planning Department.  The city council, essentially, adopted the Ascension Parish Drainage Ordinance in toto.  Ascension has long been responsible for approving drainage plans attached to new subdivisions inside the city, but Monday’s was the first under a new regulatory scheme.

“Based on the demand, we have an attractive product to offer developers and potential residents,” Councilman Stewart said.  “But I represent current citizens and will do all I can to make sure they’re protected.”

The City of Gonzales issued 94 residential building permits since July 1, over 50 of them for Conway Subdivision south of I-10 along Hwy 44; dozens more in two new subdivisions along Hwy 30 on either side of Burnside Avenue (Arbor Crossing east/Rothland west).