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Sonya Crowe

Contributed photo

CLINTON — East Feliciana Parish President Sonya J. Crowe won't be leaving her post after all, if she sticks to a commitment she made to the Police Jury Monday night.

Crowe announced at a special Oct. 26 meeting she was resigning as parish manager effective Nov. 7 to take a higher-paying job as head of West Feliciana Parish Government's Finance Department. She said jury President Louis Kent's alleged interference in her administration also figured in her decision.

But the picture had changed by Monday, with Crowe saying several jurors had "reached out to her" and she is willing to stay if jurors agree to show respect for the position and its own policies.

She also said open communications between her and jurors is necessary for her to be effective in the position.

Crowe did not submit a resignation letter, and the jury merely voted Oct. 26 to begin advertising to fill the expected vacancy. She also said Monday she did not apply for the West Feliciana job, that she was approached with an offer.

Jurors voted Monday to rescind their earlier action, although Juror Jason McCray abstained after questioning Crowe about her intentions to remain.

The lengthy meeting also featured several lingering controversies, and sheriff's deputies posted at the front and rear of the meeting room monitored a large crowd that filled the meeting room and a side office. At one point, Deputy Wayne Aucoin told several people talking among themselves to take their arguments outside.

Jurors punted on an item that attracted the most visitors, the Planning and Zoning Commission's denial of a plat for a residential subdivision on land owned by George A. Turner at the intersection of Felix Lee and Turner roads.

Turner, backed by West Feliciana developer Lula London, said he wants to develop a subdivision with "decent, affordable housing," but he said the parish continues to put obstacles in his path.

Rather than uphold the commission's denial, the jury voted to send the subdivision request back to the panel after new information came up about a property boundary dispute Turner has with neighboring landowners.

One reason given for the denial was the absence of an actual, on-the-ground survey of the proposed development, but Turner and London said the commission went beyond its regulations to turn down the proposal because of local opposition to low-income housing.

"We, as black folks, can't get any justice. If we have to, we'll see you in court," London said, prompting a chorus of "No" from the opponents.

Residents of Highland Lakeshore Estates appeared to urge the jury to take action against an eyesore at one residence that neighborhood association President Ronald Smith called "worse than 'Sanford and Son,'" referring to the 1970s television comedy starring Redd Foxx.

The discussion devolved into an argument between Crowe and District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla, with Crowe saying the jury is understaffed and lacks a code enforcement officer to handle complaints about public nuisances.

She also said the jury doesn't have the money to clean up the junk, but if it did and put a lien on the property, the action would hurt a man who bought the property at a tax sale, not the occupant who still lives at the residence.

"I don't understand why the nuisance ordinance has not been used," D'Aquilla said, adding that Crowe should send a certified letter to the occupant directing him to clean up the property and a postal receipt showing that the occupant either accepted the letter or refused to take it.

"We will take it to court," D'Aquilla said. "I don't see what the problem is."

Juror Glen Kent also clashed with Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Larry Thomas and surveyor Skip Moody, who are pushing to have the jury adopt land subdivision regulations that have been under discussion for more than a year.

An item to set a public hearing on the commission's proposed new ordinance appeared on the jury's agenda without jury input, angering Kent, who said the panel's recent vote to approve a new version came despite a committee of jurors and commissioners agreeing earlier to continue working on the document.

Thomas disagreed with the outcome of the special committee's session and continued, with Moody, to push for a jury hearing on the new regulations.

Before the jury voted to table the issue until the committee comes up with a final draft, Glen Kent told Thomas, "If you knew half of what you're talking about, you'd be a brilliant person."