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GONZALES — The Ascension Parish Council, for a second time in five months, has asked its appointed Planning Commission to reconsider a previously rejected housing project over procedural issues raised by the developer.

The commission will be asked to reconsider a 4-2 vote in November to reject the 92-home Oak Grove Townhomes development near the busy corner of La. 42 and La. 73. 

The commissioners rejected the town houses over concerns about traffic emptying near the highway intersection, especially from as 12.2-acre town house project that is more densely packed with residences than a typical subdivision, and a plan to drain runoff from the new homes into lakes at nearby Willow Lake subdivision, which neighbors said overflows onto the property.  

Last year the Parish Council took on the responsibility of Planning Commission appeals after the former three-person panel drew fire over too often siding with developers.

But, in the first two appeals brought under the new process, the council hasn't decided the issue but sent the matter back to the commission to correct the possibility of alleged procedural missteps raised by developers. 

In September, the council referred back the 50-home Reese Lane neighborhood off Parker Road in Prairieville over questions raised by developer D.R. Horton.

Jimmie Percy, attorney for the national homebuilder, questioned then whether enough votes were in the majority of a 2-1 vote by the seven-member commission to deny the project. Three members were absent at the time of the vote, and the commission chairman did not vote. Back before the commission in October, Reese Lane was approved, 5-1, and one member absent.  

In a written appeal for Oak Grove Townhomes, attorneys for Baton Rouge developers Brian Dantin and Ross Bruce took issue with the commission's rationale for rejecting their gated community over traffic and drainage concerns but also noted the commission didn't give them time to rebut the complaints of neighbors.

The developers wrote that the traffic and drainage studies show the town house project would have minimal or improve impacts after construction. The rainfall detention ponds and other drainage improvements would reduce the rate of runoff from the site up to a 100-year rainstorm, which drops 12.6 inches in 24 hours, the developers' appeal noted. The parish staff had found Oak Grove Townhomes met all subdivision requirements.

Neighbors like Dennis Stevens, however, who waited through a more than four-hour council meeting Feb. 15, raised their concerns about traffic and drainage into the lake. Stevens said the drainage plan doesn't work.

"What we asked for was to solve the drainage problem and solve the traffic," he said of neighbors' comments to the commission, "before you let these people build this development. That's all we're asking for. We know, we know there's something that's going to be built there."

Meghan Montgomery also called the developer's claims that a time for rebuttal wasn't provided "just a bald-faced lie." 

She said the developer and his engineer stood and answered questions after the public spoke.

Later, under question from Councilman Todd Lambert, Planning Director Jerome Fournier said the developers answered questions from the commissioners but were not allowed a period to offer any rebuttals.

Councilman Aaron Lawler said the matter had to be sent back to the commission "to prevent any further issues."

"Look, it's a tenuous argument, and I'm not saying it's correct. I'm just trying to avoid any further complications with it," Lawler told Lambert.

Representatives for the developers did not speak before the council but sat quietly in the back of the council chambers. 

The council voted 7-2 to send the matter back to the commission. Councilmen Lambert and Daniel "Doc" Satterlee voted "no." All other council members voted for the referral. Councilmen Benny Johnson and Travis Turner were absent. 

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.