ST. GABRIEL — A controversial request to rezone a 3,000-acre tract from residential to heavy industrial has been yanked off the table — for now.
Mayor Lionel Johnson said Wednesday the family that owns the undeveloped land will work with the city on a way to use the property that would be beneficial to the public and that would not incite the outcry the original rezoning request did from nearby residents who feared a large chemical plant could set up shop near their homes.
“They didn’t directly say it was the public opposition, but I have to believe that was a contributing factor,” Johnson said of the landowners. “I think the next time they come before the City Council, they want to have all their ducks in a row.”
The mayor said the plan now is for city officials to work with the landowners on possibly dividing the large tract of land, which is tucked between Nicholson Drive and River Road near the St. Gabriel city limits, into smaller parcels that can be rezoned for multiple uses.
“There was just way too much speculation, way too many rumors about the potential rezoning of the entire property,” Johnson said of the original request to rezone the tract.
The city’s Planning Committee had been set to discuss the matter at its Nov. 12 meeting. The City Council would have made its final vote on the request the following week.
Johnson said the rezoning request has been pulled from the agendas for both meetings.
The matter has been an hot-button issue that attracted the attention of not only St. Gabriel residents, but residents living across the parish line, and across the street, in an upscale subdivision in East Baton Rouge Parish.
About 100 people have attended the three public meetings the city has hosted regarding the rezoning, urging city leaders to reject the request.
A representative for the family has previously said the landowners were not entertaining any offers to sell the property, but the family wanted it rezoned in order to get a profitable return on their investment.
Mike Smith, president of the University Club South Neighborhood Association, said his neighbors were happy to hear that the rezoning request was withdrawn, but they are still harboring fears about what could happen next with the property.
“Now I’ll be interested in seeing what the plan is if they’re looking at dividing it up into different pieces and rezoning that,” he said. “I imagine there would be some people opposed to even part of it being rezoned heavy industrial, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.”
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