ST. FRANCISVILLE — After a contentious debate involving proposed amendments to parish planning ordinances, the West Feliciana Parish Council voted at its June 8 meeting to recess the discussion to allow the public more time to review the proposed changes.
The move came after members of the audience repeatedly questioned the council about why it did not allow the public time to review the proposed amendments outlining how the planning ordinances would be administered.
The council voted unanimously to postpone a vote on the amended document until after a continuation of the recessed public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday. The substitute motion was made by Councilman Ricky Lambert.
“I’m not in favor of passing anything tonight,” Lambert said after the debate.
The Planning and Zoning Commission had submitted its recommended changes to the council. For example, those include changing responsibility for final authority for approval of minor subdivisions, and changing terms like minor adjustments to minor subdivisions in another section.
Most of the objections were not as much about the specifics of the changes but more about the way they were handled.
Council Chairwoman Heather Howle admitted proposed changes to that document were amended during the day. As she read the proposed council amendments to the actual document, it became evident audience members did not support the council taking action on a document that had been changed without adequate public review.
“From the audience, we’re not hearing what Planning and Zoning recommended, we’re hearing what you all did (in amending the recommendations),” real estate agent Gaye Landry said.
Parish resident Kim Maxwell voiced her opposition to any vote on the proposals before the public has the opportunity to review them.
“People who came tonight are concerned with the way you’re doing business and we’re concerned where this document came from,” audience member Courtney Tucker said.
“I assure you we are following the home rule charter,” Howle said. Council attorney Mike Hughes also assured the audience that no public meeting laws had been violated.
Several times, Howle pounded her gavel to wrest control of the meeting from back-and-forth debates between council members and the audience.
“If you pass this, I’m going to veto it and you’re going to have to start all over,” Parish President Kevin Couhig warned.