CLINTON — A subdivision that bypassed the East Feliciana Parish Police Jury and the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval earlier this year continued to generate heated discussion Monday without a final resolution.
Jurors voted in August to rescind the Police Jury approval signatures for a division of property off La. 409 south of Clinton. Planning and Zoning Chairman Richard Howell said the subdivision contained 11 lots accessible by a private servitude, but the parish’s ordinance limits the number of such lots to four.
The commission had tabled the plat for property owner Tommy Dudley in March because they said it needed several corrections, but Howell said the map never came back to the commission.
Instead, the plat, with 11 lots, according to Howell, was signed by Parish Manager John Rouchon, then-jury employee and commission member Russ Hicks and commission member Bart Blackledge.
A subdivision with more than four lots would require Dudley to purchase the servitude property and put in streets and other infrastructure that meets parish and state sanitation requirements.
Before the jury rescinded the subdivision’s approval, Dudley sold a lot, where a house is now under construction.
On Monday, the jury heard Carroll Devillier Jr., Dudley’s attorney, appeal the Aug. 18 vote but declined to reverse it. Instead, jurors decided to send the controversy back to the Planning and Zoning Commission to possibly approve a plat with the correct number of lots.
Devillier argued the jury waited too long before rescinding the approval, saying nothing in the way the matter was handled was done correctly.
“That ship sailed in May,” Devillier said, referring to what he said is a 30-day time limit for rescinding the subdivision’s approval.
Juror Louis Kent said the plat did not meet any of the ordinance’s exceptions that could be approved without jury action.
“Some untruths were told to the parish manager, I guess,” Kent said.
Billy Burkett, who lives in the area, said Dudley initially said he wanted to make two lots off the servitude to give to his sons.
“How did we get from two to 12 or 10 or eight? He knew it was wrong when he brought it here,” Burkett said. “If the Police Jury can’t see that it was a dirty deal … I want a whole new jury.”
Deborah Chandler, who owns the servitude with her husband, said she was not aware that the number of lots had increased, but she would have been able to object if it had properly come before the jury.
Howell said the commission did not know that Rouchon and the others had signed a different map until the 30 days Devillier mentioned had elapsed.
Former commission Chairman Mike Salmon said no other subdivision with more than four lots accessed by a private servitude has been allowed in the parish since 1986.
“How three parish officials signed that map is beyond comprehension. If you allow this now, it’s going to blow up this ordinance,” Salmon said.
District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla said Rouchon, Hicks and Blackledge did not have the authority to sign the map to say it conformed with the jury’s regulations, and he recommended sending it back to the commission to see if Dudley will resubmit a plat with the required number of lots.
The discussion came during 90 minutes of debate that included complaints by surveyors Jeff and Skip Moody that the commission is not required to review approved subdivision plats that conform to five of nine exceptions allowed in the ordinance, but Howell and Salmon disagreed.
The Moodys said the commission’s insistence in reviewing all maps is causing delays in property sales and property loans.
They also complained that Howell refused to consider plats that included language saying the commission had no authority to review them. They said the language came directly from the subdivision ordinance.
“I’m not signing a map (plat) that says I don’t have the authority to sign it,” Howell said.
During the often confusing discussions, the jury apparently approved one map submitted by one of the Moody brothers but sent two more back to the commission.