ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish Council agreed June 15 to give authority for final decisions on subdividing properties such as family holdings to the parish Planning and Zoning Commission.
“It does two things,” parish council acting chairman Ricky Lambert said. It provides checks and balances and involves Planning and Zoning with divisions of smaller properties.
“It’s not about anything other than good policy,” he said.
But it was a gift the Planning and Zoning Commission really didn’t want. Instead, the commissioners had pushed for that authority to go to Parish Administrator Jim Ferguson, who is also a civil engineer.
The council vote on the ordinance amendment was 4-1. Voting in support were John Kean, Lambert, Lea Williams and Melvin Young. Opposing was Otis Wilson, who had offered a substitute motion to accept the Planning and Zoning recommendation.
The council’s decision came despite impassioned pleas from numerous audience members and from Parish President Kevin Couhig to accept the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation.
“I am tempted to veto this foolish ordinance that ignored the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission and the wishes of the people,” Couhig said in a June 16 email. “I will not do so as a veto would mean that in the interim, no approvals could be made and would continue to interfere with property transfers and people making a living and dealing with their personal property.”
The issue has been in the works since April 27, when the original proposal defining specific responsibilities was introduced. It was then referred to Planning and Zoning, which sent the proposed ordinance back to the council with its recommendations.
At the June 8 meeting, the council accepted some of those recommendations but amended others, chief among them being authority on minor divisions of properties.
Still, almost all audience members who spoke out at both meetings voiced frustration that the council members were not listening to them.
“People are here to tell you what we think, and I have not heard one person stand up and support you tonight,” developer Courtney Tucker said. “Please consider that.”