GONZALES — The Gonzales Planning and Zoning Commission approved rezoning requests by two landowners on Monday, but not before some figurative head-scratching over a city councilman’s input.
In July, the commission had sent to the City Council for approval a request by Judge Alvin Turner, of the 23rd Judicial District Court, to rezone undeveloped property he owns between West Worthey Road and South Darla Avenue from R-8 to R-6, to be in line with other adjacent and nearby subdivision zoning.
R-8 means property with residential lots at 8,000 square feet; R-6 is zoning for smaller lots, at 6,000 square feet.
However, at a City Council meeting last month, Councilman Gary Lacombe moved that the issue be sent back to Planning and Zoning, to be looked at along with other nearby, undeveloped property.
On Monday night, Turner told the Planning and Zoning Commission that, in the meantime, he had spoken to Lacombe and learned that Lacombe believed the rezoning of Turner’s land should extend past his property to a drainage ditch on the adjacent property of landowner Al Husser Jr.
So, as a favor to Turner, Husser was at the Planning and Zoning meeting to ask that his property also be zoned from R-8 to R-6, up to the drainage ditch on his property.
“A councilman interpreted the law” that the rezoning “needed a physical boundary (of the ditch). Mr. Lacombe, his interpretation of what the law said is different than mine,” Turner told the commission.
“Fortunately, Mr. Husser agreed to ask for the R-6, for assistance to me. If not, there would probably be litigation,” Turner said.
“We don’t recognize ditches as boundaries. He should have talked with us,” Commission Chairman Frank Cagnolatti said of Lacombe.
“The one thing he’s telling you to do, he’s completely wrong,” Commissioner Ralph Delatte Jr. said.
The commission, however, voted 4-1 in favor of recommending to the council that it approve the rezoning of a portion of Husser’s property to the ditch.
Delatte voted against it.
“I have no problem with going from R-8 to R-6,” he said. “But I’m not in favor of being strong-armed” by people on the council.
“What they’re telling you is completely wrong,” Delatte told Husser and Turner.
The commission voted unanimously to recommend to the council that it approve Turner’s request to have his 28.9 acres rezoned from R-8 to R-6.
Walter Welch, who’s owned the Stewart Instrument Co. on Burnside for more than 20 years, came before the commission seeking a change from C-1 to C-2 for property he owns adjacent to his business, where he’d like to build a warehouse.
Welch, who said he’s leased a warehouse elsewhere for many years, said it would make better business sense to own his own warehouse.
The commission recommended, instead, that the property remain C-1, with a special permit for the warehouse.
“A couple of us went and looked at what you have” and approve of the warehouse plans, Commissioner Terry Richey said.
However, he said, “If you go to C-2, it probably won’t get passed” in light of the current three-person bloc on the City Council that regularly votes against such zoning changes.
“You’d have to wait six months to come back” before the commission, Richey said.
The commission voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council at its next meeting approve C-1 with a special permit for Welch’s warehouse.
At the end of the meeting, Richey made a statement, decrying an attempt by Lacombe at the last City Council meeting to remove Cagnolatti and Eddie Williams from the Planning and Zoning Commission, because they had continued beyond five years on the commission.
“I think it’s wrong, and I think it’s unethical,” Richey said.
At the City Council’s July 28 meeting, councilmen discussed a letter Lacombe sent to the Attorney General’s Office alleging Mayor Barney Arceneaux is violating a city ordinance by not removing two members from the Gonzales Planning and Zoning Commission who are serving beyond the end of their terms.
In June, Lacombe sought an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office alleging the mayors “lack of action” on the two commissioners “constitutes malfeasance in office.”
The attorney general wrote Lacombe: “After review of your complaint it does not appear to rise to the level of malfeasance in office on the part of the mayor. … As such there does not appear to be any valid grounds for the Attorney General’s Office to investigate the actions of the mayor in his failure to appoint any member to a board or commission and no further action will be taken by our office at this time.”
The council adopted a resolution that the mayor reappoint the existing members of the Planning and Zoning Commission.