40 citizens appeared in opposition of two proposed townhome developments at Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting…and both were rejected by the seven-member panel. Longleaf Townhomes’ 100-unit preliminary plat, east of Hwy 73 and across the road from Dutchtown High School could muster only two votes. Lakes at Henderson Bayou’s 35-unit proposal did one vote better but still one vote shy of approval.
As Chairman Matthew Pryor noted, both denials can appeal to the Parish Council sitting as the Planning Commission Appeals Board.
Speaking of Pryor, his vote rejecting Longleaf was only the second he has cast in opposition to a residential subdivision plat since being appointed to the commission in July 2014. Joined by that other bastion of development, Julio Dumas, in the majority to deny…how bad was was the preliminary plat?
Planning Staff analyzed Longleaf’s Traffic Impact Study:
“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.”
The developer, Dantin Bruce, LLC knew it was an uphill climb, showing up with its lawyer to argue the finer points of Ascension’s Traffic Impact Policy. “Nowhere does the policy address roadway sections” opined Eric Piazza and his client. The commission, five members at least, weren’t buying it. Aaron Chaisson, Shannon Hutchings, and Michael Varnado joined Pryor and Dumas in the majority (Ken Firmin and Robert Hodgson voted to approve Longleaf).
Zoned MU2 (Mixed Use), the 13.6 acre tract is eligible for townhomes and any number of commercial uses, all of which generate more traffic than townhomes according to developer, Ross Bruce. He adopted the “use-by-right” legal jargon signaling that a lawsuit may be in the offing unless the Parish Council overturns the 5-2 decision. Bruce likened the requirement to improve sections of Hwy 73 to a de facto moratorium on development in the corridor.
His argument drew cheers from the residents gathered in opposition.
Lakes at Henderson Bayou was a closer call. Located on Hwy 44, 850′ south of Hwy 42, the site was proposed for a 60-unit Small Planned Unit Development (SPUD) last September, recommended for approval by the Planning Commission only to be denied by the Parish Council. The development reappeared as a 35-unit plat.
“Ten small impacts equal one big impact,” Commissioner Shannon Hutchings explained her decision to deny the plat. “It is irresponsible to keep letting our residents flood over, and over, and over.”
Hutchings was joined in the four-vote majority by Commissioners Chaisson, Hodgson and Varnado. Commissioners Pryor, Dumas, and Firmin comprised the minority.
“We have certain standards…set by the elected officials,” Pryor explained. “(Developers) get these hoops they have to jump through and they jump through the hoops. They should be allowed to rely on the law that is passed by the elected officials.”
Concluding the development had “met all legal requirements” with regard to traffic and drainage, Pryor’s argument failed to carry the day.