A proposed new approval process for subdivision developments in Livingston Parish would give developers more time for wetlands mitigation while ensuring the Planning Commission has an opportunity to sign off on the completed project.

The Parish Council’s Ordinance Committee recommended the changes Thursday night. The full council must introduce the proposal and hold a public hearing before the recommendations can become law.

Under current regulations, developers must give the Planning Commission proof from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that any wetlands affected by the project have been mitigated before submitting construction plans to the commission’s review engineer.

Commission engineer Chad Bacas, of Forte and Tablada, said that puts the lengthy mitigation process earlier in the project than is necessary to protect the parish’s interests. The parish doesn’t need that assurance until the council is ready to accept roads or rights of way into the parish’s system, which comes after the project’s completion, he said.

Bacas said developers likely would still need to mitigate any wetlands before proceeding with construction. “At least, I would. But from the parish’s standpoint, you just need it before accepting the final plat.”

Based on that recommendation, the Ordinance Committee recommended that developers give the parish’s planning staff and engineer either a jurisdictional determination letter from the Corps or a wetlands delineation letter from a consultant before drawing up construction plans. But the developer would not have to provide a Corps permit or proof of any mitigation until after construction, when submitting the project’s final plat.

Deric Murphy, of Quality Engineering, said moving the mitigation requirement later in the process is key for developers, for both timing and economic reasons. Securing a Corps permit can take nearly a year, Murphy said, while wetlands consultants can reasonably predict which areas will need to be avoided or mitigated in just a few weeks.

The Ordinance Committee also recommended the Planning Commission review the project at different stages than are currently established by ordinance. Now, the commission approves each project’s plans twice in its early conceptual stages but does not review the project at any point after construction.

Bacas, the commission’s review engineer, said there is no need for the commission to review the project in later stages because, by law, if there are significant changes from the earlier plans, the project must go back before the commission anyway. Otherwise, final approval rests with the engineer and parish planning director.

But Parish Council Chairman Chance Parent, who sits on the Ordinance Committee, said he believes the commission should see each project both in its conceptual and final stages. Planning Commission Chairman Joe Koczrowski and fellow Commissioner Gerald Burns agreed.

Burns also suggested a “trigger provision” that would allow the Planning Commission’s chairman to sign off on a completed project, in lieu of full commission approval, if the commission could not gather a quorum within 21 days from the developer submitting the project for review.

Koczrowski said he would have no problem signing off on his own, but he said he doesn’t think the commission had failed to make quorum in at least a year.

“Let’s not make this too complicated right now,” council member Joan Landry said. “Y’all just make sure you have a quorum.”

“Y’all can always call a special meeting,” Parent added.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.