Industrial rezoning request in St. Gabriel could be pushed back a month after committee meeting cancelled _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TERRY JONES -- Pictured is the St. Gabriel property whose owners are seeking a rezoning from residential to commercial.

Any decision on the controversial request to rezone a 3,000-acre tract from residential to heavy industrial won’t be made until next month at the earliest.

The request was supposed to go before the city’s Planning and Zoning Committee on Wednesday, but the committee couldn’t meet because they lacked a quorum.

And on Thursday, the City Council deferred the matter until the committee can meet.

The City Council also changed the venue of the next Planning and Zoning meeting to better accommodate the growing number of people who want to weigh in or listen to the debate. In fact, more than 100 people had to squeeze their way into the council chambers to attend Thursday’s meeting.

Mayor Lionel Johnson said the item would not be addressed Thursday, discouraging any public comment at that point.

Johnson was backed by the city attorney, who told the council it was premature for it to entertain any discussion about the item because a city ordinance requires the Planning and Zoning Committee make a recommendation first.

“I strongly suggest you tell them to meet and make a recommendation,” attorney Phil Canova told the council, “and if they don’t want to vote on the request, they need to submit that to the council.”

The council set the next Planning and Zoning meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 12 at the St. Gabriel Community Center, which can accommodate more people than the council chambers.

The council, however, ignored Canova’s advice and decided Thursday to listen to comments from some of the people at the meeting.

The speakers revisited many of the same arguments against the request that have been expressed since the landowners were required to hold a meeting last week with neighbors living within 500 feet of the site.

The tract of land brushes up against the Iberville Parish line and is across the street from two upscale University Club subdivisions located in St. Gabriel and East Baton Rouge Parish.

Most of the people who spoke Thursday said rezoning the land for industrial use would destroy their quality of life and devalue their properties if a chemical plant is built after the land is sold.

No one spoke at Thursday’s meeting in favor of the rezoning request.

Brian Bordelon, the representative for the family making the zoning request, previously said the landowners were not entertaining any offers and just want the property rezoned so they can get a profitable return on their investment.

The council also learned that a petition against the request is circulating through the community. Mildred Bailey, who lives down the street from the site on River Road, said more than 300 signatures have been collected.

“St. Gabriel is going in such a great direction,” Bailey said. “I don’t think a lot of us would have ever moved here had we known industry was going to be able to move in there.”

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.