Gonzales Council approves Chapelwood Estates to settle lawsuit

On Monday a 3-2 vote of Gonzales’ City Council approved the 28-lot preliminary plat of Chapelwood Estates in settlement of the lawsuit filed by attorney (and Ascension Parish Planning Commission Chairman), Matthew Pryor on behalf of developer, AP Gonzales, LLC.  Denied by a 3-1 vote of this same body on March 22, which followed an earlier recommendation by the city’s Planning Commission, a three-member majority followed Mayor Barney Arceneaux’s lead to approve the plat and drainage plan last night.

The proposed development is located just north Gonzales Middle School, between W Worthey Street and Orice Roth.

Five months ago the vote was 3-1 to deny the plat with Councilmen Tim Riley, Tyler Turner and Harold Stewart in the majority against the lone positive vote cast by Councilman Johnny Berthelot (Councilman Kirk Boudreaux abstained).  On Monday it was Stewart who voted with Berthelot, joined by Boudreaux, whose March conflict of interest must have been cleared up freeing him to join the majority in approving Chapelwood Estates.

Berthelot’s hard sell ignored as three council members deny Chapelwood Estates plat

The decision also followed the legal advice offered by Brad Myers, the city’s outside defense counsel who opined that Chapelwood Estates‘ plat met all zoning laws and subdivision regulations, and received approval from the city’s permitting department.  There was also a December 7, 2020 letter from Ascension Parish’s Engineering Review Agent Shaun Sherrow verifying that “the Drainage Impact Study substantially conforms to the requirements of the Ascension Parish Drainage Ordinance.”

Pursuant to an agreement between the City of Gonzales and East Ascension Drainage District, the latter is responsible for approving drainage studies submitted with developments inside the city.  Initially the development sought to rezone the site to allow 39 lots, but was denied in late 2020.  So the 28-lot version was introduced, retaining the Drainage Impact Study for the 39-lot version.

“The risk in this litigation is substantial,” declared Brad Myers.  “AP Gonzales has agreed to dismiss its suit if the council approves the drainage plan and preliminary plat.”

Myers sounded a lot like opposing council, Matthew Pryor, who represented the developer against the City of Gonzales.  Pryor, who chairs Ascension Parish’s Planning Commission, has offered the very same argument to justify his support of numerous subdivision preliminary plats considered by the parish’s commission over the years.

AP Gonzales, LLC’s attorney, Matthew Pryor at right as Chief Sherman Jackson looks on.

Pryor confirmed his client’s intent, verifying his counterpart’s version of settlement negotiations.  But the decision is not the lawyers’ to make.

Without any discussion, Councilman Berthelot made the motion to approve Chapelwood Estates and he had the votes to back it up.