New Ascension building restrictions in place, is Livingston the subdivision hotspot?

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the last residential subdivision preliminary plat considered (and approved) by Ascension Planning Commission, a nine-month subdivision moratorium taking effect the next day (July 15, 2021).  Thursday also saw Livingston Parish Council consider, then defer Valere Subdivision, a 689-lot preliminary plat proposed for French Settlement, back to its Planning Commission.  With tightening road and drainage regulations in Ascension, developers seemed to have looked east to Livingston which only recently began considering implementation of zoning/development laws.

It took Ascension’s Parish Council over 10 months to install stricter development regulations upon which the subdivision moratorium was predicated last year.  The moratorium expired on May 31 after being extended from its original April 17 expiration date.  Two Ascension Planning Commission meeting later, and no preliminary plat has been filed with the Planning Department charged with implementation and enforcement of a new Development Code ordinance scheme.

It could have been a lot worse for the development community.

Casso’s last minute changes water down TIA ordinance, subdivision moratorium coming to end

Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) required of every major/minor subdivision was codified, heightening certain requirements in what has long been mere policy.  Until last minute amendments the TIA presented for council consideration included the provision below:

The LOS of an intersection shall be the lowest LOS of any one approach or movement of such intersection (e.g., one approach or movement is LOS “D” and another approach or movement is LOS “E,” then the overall intersection LOS shall be “E”

In layman’s terms, every leg of every intersection included the development’s TIA had to meet the “D” Level of Service which would have precluded development in Prairieville.  It would have been a de facto moratorium in the words of one Planning Commissioner.  Elimination of that verbiage codifies TIA policy applied by the Planning Department previously, though one additional stricture will severely diminish developable acreage.

Restricting subdivisions to roadways at least 20 feet wide is not insignificant.

Map of all the roads in Ascension less than 20′ in width (as of June 2020)

As Ascension contemplates road-widening projects, we wonder if affected citizenry would prefer to retain their narrower roadways that ensure no new subdivision can be built.  A question for another day.

The result, so far anyway, is that development has looked east to Livingston Parish where three subdivision combining for more than 3,000 residential lots have been presented for approval.  Two of them, Deer Run (2,000 lots) and Sweetwater (481 lots), have been approved near Denham Springs since April.  The former is a development by Ascension Properties, Inc., which is longtime Ascension Parish developer, Chris Ingram’s company.

Livingston adopted a 60-day moratorium which is set to expire later this month, but both subdivision plats were submitted prior to its effective date.  Deer Run was approved on June 23.

Ascension Properties presented another subdivision prior to Livingston’s moratorium. Valere Subdivision (689 lots), planned for French Settlement, is another Ascension Properties development.  It was taken up by Livingston’s Parish Council (unlike Ascension, where the Planning Commission has the final say) last week, but deferred to August 3 when the Livingston Planning Commission will reconsider.  The commonly expressed hope of Livingston citizens and council members being that newly-adopted building restrictions might be applied.

Multiple Livingston residents opposed Valere, some blaming their flooding problems on Ascension Parish.  Citing Marvin Braud Pump Station operations and the rock weir at the Amite River/Diversion Canal were cited specifically.

One things for certain, more subdivisions in Livingston Parish will not help their plight.  Many in Ascension can empathize.