The Ascension Parish Council is midway through creating a new zoning category aimed at regulating where new trailer parks and mobile home sites can be built in the unincorporated parts of the parish.
Parish officials have worried the rise in industrial construction in Ascension would give rise to new parks — and conflicts with neighbors — as thousands of temporary workers look for places to stay.
The changes, which have been adopted in pieces and need a final vote Nov. 6, are aimed at limiting conflicts with residential neighborhoods, requiring a zoning change any time a new park is proposed and ensuring the Zoning Commission and council knows about new mobile home or trailer parks, parish officials said.
The parish is creating a new zoning category solely for mobile home and trailer parks. This level of specificity is a departure from current zoning rules, which do not require applicants to state exactly what they plan to do and also allows them to change course in the middle of a project. The full council on Oct. 2 adopted the new language, but a final change to the parishwide zoning map is planned Nov. 6.
The zoning changes come almost a year after the council imposed a moratorium on new mobile and trailer parks. That ban was sparked by the rush of industrial development in the parishes along the river. Fears about a series of new trailer parks in parish commercial zones became acute after the now-shelved Shell gas-to-liquids plant was announced last year. Estimated to cost at least $12.5 billion to build, the project would have drawn 10,000 construction workers.
The moratorium ended in April, but there has been no push for new trailer parks so far, although there has been some hotel and motel construction geared toward workers. Mike Eades, chief executive officer of the Ascension Economic Development Corp., said several projects in Ascension and nearby St. James are still coming on line and others are being announced.
Eades pointed to Huntsman Corp.’s recent announcement that it was doing early engineering work on an 80 percent capacity expansion of its Geismar complex.
“I think the demand is still out there,” Eades said about the potential need for expanded worker housing.
Ricky Compton, parish planning and development director, added that the expense of building new trailer and mobile home parks under existing rules, which require concrete pads and community sewer, will make it economically challenging for developers. But the new changes would not add new requirements to expand existing parks under standing rules, he acknowledged.
Any zoning change requires extensive review before the council-appointed Zoning Commission and the council itself, including at least two public hearings. Proposed zoning changes go before the council four times before a final vote its cast.
Also, the new mobile home and trailer park category will not have any spot on the parishwide zoning map, Compton said. The map, for instance, says where residential and commercial areas are.
Trailer park applicants will have seek to rezone a certain area and, under the new changes, chose sites next to other mobile home or trailer parks or next to sites already zoned commercially.
Aaron Looney contributed to this report.