Unanimous council overturns Planning Commission’s denial of Belle Savanne plat revision

Chairwoman Teri Casso

Ten members of Ascension’s Parish Council, convened on Thursday as the Planning Commission Appeals Board, granted the appeal by Belle Savanne Subdivision to eliminate a requirement that a connecting road be built linking Hwy 73 to Bluff Road.  The unanimous (Councilman Michael Mason was absent) action overturned an August 2019 denial by Ascension’s Planning Commission of the subdivision’s Major Revision request.  It clears the way for sale and occupancy of lots in the third and final phase of Belle Savanne.  

The subdivision developer, Enguist Level Development, filed a Major Revision to its plat, first approved in December 2015 with a condition that Phase 3 homes could not be sold unless/until a through road is built linking Hwy 73 to Bluff Road.  Louisiana DOTD scrapped that plan, resulting in an impossible condition to marketing of Phase 3 lots.

Belle Savanne’s appeal asserted:

“The Planning Commission denied the request…to amend the approved preliminary plat for Belle Savanne…with regard to the Phase Three filing condition on the plat that says: ‘A CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY FOR LOTS WITHIN PHASE THREE WILL NOT BE GRANTED UNTIL THE BID IS AWARDED FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE ROADWAY CONNECTION TO BLUFF ROAD.’” (Emphasis in original).

Thursday’s council discussion focused on DOTD’s ultimate goal, alternate access to Bluff Road for motorists jamming Hwy 73.  More specifically, according to Chairwoman Teri Casso, DOTD wants to eliminate the traffic signal at Hwy 73’s intersection with C Braud Road which is too close to I-10’s eastbound off-ramp, causing traffic to back up on the interstate.  The area impacted lies within Casso’s Council District 8 and she claimed to have participated in the December 2015 negotiations with Belle Savanne’s project engineer, Deric Murphy.

The developer, to paraphrase the councilwoman, negotiated in good faith and expended funds toward resolution of traffic problems not of its own making, above and beyond what was required of a new subdivision.  In return for that cooperation the developer is being punished by DOTD’s unilateral decision to pursue an alternate route for the Hwy 73/Bluff Road connection.

Concerned residents, a few living in Belle Savanne and others in neighboring Crestview, voiced their objections to the connector road being constructed through the new subdivision.  None vocally opposed Phase 3 construction and additional home sales.  All ten voting Council/Appeals Board members agreed, surpassing the required 8-vote supermajority to overturn the denial of Belle Savanne’s Major Revision request.

Construction of the newly-proposed connecting road will be expedited after the project has been added to MoveAscension’s to-do list.  Councilman Aaron Lawler, who chairs the Council Transportation Committee, explained the decision to fund the new road with parish dollars exclusively in order to avoid persistent delays when state and/or federal dollars are relied upon.  

We’ll have more on the connector road as details solidify.