Open season for developers? Two subdivisions proposed on Hwy 73 near Dutchtown HS

Matthew Pryor with Council Chairwoman Teri Casso (2012)

The next meeting of Ascension’s Planning Commission, set for Wednesday (May 12), marks the first vote on a subdivision preliminary plat since the Parish Council’s Personnel Committee engineered the reappointment of Matthew Pryor; and the ouster of Commissioner Richard Carmouche.  Two ends of the spectrum, Pryor proudly pro-development as opposed to Carmouche who never cast a vote of approval during his five-month tenure.  Wednesday’s agenda includes two plats, approval of which would signal every developer that the floodgates are wide open for any subdivision in Ascension.

Two townhouse developments are proposed on either side of Hwy 73 in Prairieville.

Both are located within Council Chairwoman Teri Casso’s District 8.  Much like her Planning Commission counterpart (Matthew Pryor chairs the commission), Casso is unabashedly pro-development.  And Pryor has no greater council supporter than the chairwoman.

Pryor will be hard-pressed to rationalize approval of these two plats.

Longleaf Townhomes is located on the east side of LA Hwy. 73 approximately 2,800 feet North of Hwy 74 in Council District 8 and is zoned Mixed Use 2 Corridors (MU-2) which allows townhome development. The application is on behalf of Dantin Bruce Development, LLC by Quality Engineering & Surveying, LLC.

The property consists of +/-13.6 acres. The applicant is proposing a townhouse subdivision containing 100 lots with a minimum size of 2,835 square feet…The applicant is proposing to send sewer influent south to an existing, privately owned sewer treatment plant in Cobblestone Parc Subdivision.

Belle Savanne Townhomes is located on the west side of LA Hwy. 73 approximately 2,800 feet north of Hwy 74 in Council District 8 and is zoned Mixed Use Corridors (MU) which allows townhome development. The application is on behalf of Engquist-Level Development, LLC by Quality Engineering & Surveying, LLC.

The property consists of +/-7.51 acres. The applicant is proposing a townhouse subdivision containing 41 lots with a minimum size of 3,337 square feet…The applicant is proposing to send sewer influent to the existing sewer treatment plant in Belle Savanne Subdivision.

NOTE:  Belle Savanne Subdivision’s 285 lots were approved by the Planning Commission in December of 2015 even though its accompanying Traffic Impact Study indicated a Level of Service “F” and the Planning Staff recommended DENIAL.  Has traffic congestion improved on Hwy 73 since then?  It is past time that Ascension Parish begin conducting these traffic studies instead of the developer.

Subsequent to its approval, immediately after the commission’s approval of Jamestown Crossing, Phases 1 and 2 as it happened, the Parish Council approved a more stringent Traffic Impact Policy.

Sale price for Jamestown Crossing

Longleaf’s developer is the same one behind Jamestown Crossing, being built on acreage sold to Dantin Bruce Development by  Councilwoman Casso and her family.  Coincidentally (?), Matthew Pryor led the majority in a 4-3 approval of Jamestown Crossing in May of 2018, among the most contentious subdivision plats to come before the Planning Commission.

Opponents of Jamestown Crossing argued that the development did not comply with Ascension’s Land Development Code, section 17-4032 Street Requirements:

A. The Commission shall apply the following rules in evaluation of subdivision applications:
1. Density Restrictions
a. No major or minor subdivision may be developed on any street which is less than 18’ in pavement width. 

Hwy 930, which bisected the development, averaged 17.3 in pavement width.  Out of 50 separate measurements the roadway was barely 18′ in width at a handful of spots.  Pryor’s justification for approval:

“Does that mean the whole roadway needs to be wider than 18 feet?  Does it mean an average?  Or does it mean as long as there’s portions that are 18 feet wide it’s acceptable?”

The issues with Wednesday’s preliminary plats are of a different sort.  Staff Analysis is identical for Belle Savanne Townhomes and Longleaf Townhomes:

Roadway segment Level of Service for Highway 73 prevents this project from meeting all guidelines for a major subdivision per current ordinance. Pursuant to the Traffic Study Policy guidelines, the applicant states that a solution is to add additional northbound and southbound lanes to improve LA Highway 73. Should the commission approve this subdivision preliminary plat, staff will ensure any comments and/or conditions are noted.

Traffic congestion on Hwy 73, particularly severe near Dutchtown High School where these subdivisions are proposed, is an ongoing cause of consternation for motorists.  The congestion is reflected in the Traffic Impact Study included in both preliminary plat applications.

Ascension’s Engineering Review Agent concluded “the following items should be considered by the Planning Commission in their analysis of the case:

  • The eastbound left of C. Braud at La 73 resulted in a LOS E. A solution was not provided to improve LOS to a D or better.
  • LA 73 is at a LOS worse than a D. The proposed solution is to add additional northbound and southbound travel lanes on La 73.
  • Modifications are needed with the existing striped turn lane to accommodate this new entrance.” (Emphasis in original).

How will Matthew Pryor and the gang try to get around these stringent requirements?

If they do it is a signal to every developer that no development is off-limits in Ascension Parish.

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