CLINTON — A committee meeting to discuss possible changes to the East Feliciana Parish Police Jury’s subdivision ordinance got off to a rocky start Tuesday before the members settled down to look at specific provisions of the 34-page document.
Facing a hostile audience critical of the jury’s handling of recent subdivision requests, jury President Dennis Aucoin on Oct. 5 accepted Parish Manager John Rouchon’s pre-meeting suggestion to name a special committee to review the ordinance.
Before the meeting started Tuesday, however, Juror Dwight Hill questioned the legality of the so-called ad hoc committee, arguing that its formation and membership had not been approved by the jury as a whole.
Rouchon said Aucoin is the only juror with the authority to name committee members, and he provided Hill with a stack of emails between him and District Attorney Sam D’Aquila regarding compliance with the state Open Meetings Law for a committee meeting.
D’Aquila did not question the committee’s formation but insisted that its meetings be conducted like any other jury meeting, with posted notice and the taking of minutes.
In addition to himself, Rouchon named surveyors Jeff and Skip Moody and Charles Snyder to the panel, along with Ed Carroll, Bart Blackledge, Juror Sean Smith and Assessor Jeff Gardner. Aucoin added Juror Louis Kent and Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Richard Howell at Kent’s request the following day.
As the meeting began Tuesday, Howell questioned Rouchon’s authority to preside over the meeting, igniting another heated discussion.
“Either straighten up or leave because you’re disrupting the meeting,” Rouchon told Howell.
The commission ended the exchange by electing Rouchon as chairman, with Howell dissenting.
The Police Jury adopted a subdivision ordinance in 1986 and amended it in 2011.
Hill said his question about the committee’s authority stemmed from the recent approval of several subdivision plats.
“So many things were going on that should not have taken place,” Hill said, while Skip Moody said he and his brother tried unsuccessfully two years ago to get the jury to address what they see as problems with the ordinance.
The ordinance lists nine types of property subdivisions that are exempt from the ordinance’s provisions, but the Moodys and Howell remain far apart on the question of whether the Planning and Zoning Commission should review the subdivision plats to determine if they fall under one of the nine exceptions.
The Moodys say the ordinance requires Police Jury approval involving four of the nine exceptions but none are required to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Howell said state law requires that all plat proposals go to the commission, if for no other reason than to determine whether they fall under one of the exceptions.
The Moodys said Howell should file suit to see if his interpretation of state law is correct, but Howell, a lawyer, said he is reluctant to go to court because a court case ultimately will cost the jury money in legal fees.
Regardless of whether the commission has authority over all subdivision matters, the ordinance should be changed to require some type of Police Jury approval of the exceptions because title insurance companies are asking for the signature of a governing body, Rouchon said.
After working their way through the ordinance for two hours, the members agreed to meet again at 8 a.m. Nov. 10.