The East Baton Rouge Parish Planning and Zoning Commission approved a zoning change for an apartment complex off Nicholson Drive over the objections of several nearby residents, though the commission did so with the caveat that an independent inspector will make sure the construction does not harm nearby homes.
Hallmark Campus Communities, of Columbus, Ohio, requested property at Iowa and McKinley streets be rezoned to a small planned unit development so it can build a three-building apartment complex there. The six-acre site is the former location of the Blunden Home for Orphans, an orphanage for African-American children.
Attorney Charles Landry told the commission that Hallmark met with nearby residents and agreed that the building along the back of the property that overlooks nearby homes would only be three stories instead of four. With the land seven feet below that of the nearby homes, the apartment building would only be five feet higher than a two-story home. Hallmark will also build up and maintain a landscape buffer and put up a fence, he said.
Nearby residents, however, said they do not want an apartment complex in their neighborhood and that University Edge will lower property values.
“My property will go down in price and there’s no doubt about it,” said Larry Dersona, an attorney who lives nearby.
Barbara Eames said she has lived in the neighborhood for 52 years and has worked to improve two lots she’s owned during that time.
“I’m not in a position to go anywhere,” she said, pounding the floor with a cane with each word she spoke.
Landry said the site should be developed and Hallmark wants the 158-unit development to engage and improve the area.
He said Hallmark has met with the city-parish Department of Public Works and agreed to pay for the demolition of several homes on nearby Alaska Street and put in street lights and sidewalks on Grant and Garfield streets. It will also screen an unsightly Entergy substation.
Landry said the site will be marked with something acknowledging the history of the Blunden Home, and the transit shelter will be built with input from neighborhood residents.
The commission approved the site unanimously — with the concession of an independent inspector to soothe trust issues — largely because the site is already zoned for high density residential.
Commissioner W.T. Winfield pointed out that zoning means a developer is already free to put in an apartment complex without providing any concessions to the neighborhood.
Other items discussed during the meeting included:
CHEVAL POINT: The commission voted 6-2 to approve the 131-lot Cheval Point subdivision. Resident Doug Daigle said new development along River Road in the southern portion of the parish should not go forward before the city-parish measures the drainage impact of development. A piecemeal approach, he said, will set a precedent and send the signal to other developers that it is acceptable.
Voting for the approval were commissioners Laurie Marien; Martha Jane Tassin; Audrey Nabors Jackson; Darius Bonton; James Gilmore; and Tara Wicker.
Commissioners Winfield and Kathleen Callaghan voted against the approval.
CAR DEALERSHIP: The commission also unanimously approved a site plan for an All Star Automotive dealership on land owned by the Metro Airport. All Star plans to move its nearby All Star Chevrolet North dealership to the site on the east side of Plank Road just north of Robique Road and south of Cypress Bayou.