PORT ALLEN — A rezoning request to develop a new subdivision along Court Street in West Baton Rouge Parish attracted strong opposition Thursday night from residents who told the Parish Council the parish doesn't have the infrastructure to support additional housing in the area.
That opposition resulted in a "no" vote that could send developers back to the drawing board if they want the project to move forward.
Residents expressed concerns the proposed subdivision would stress the parish's sewer system, metastasize the parish's traffic woes and it lacks any flooding mitigation details. Parish leaders also called out developers for not adhering to the stipulations of the zoning classification they were seeking.
"I don't feel comfortable with any of this because no one wants to tell us anything," Council Chairman Gary Spillman said during Thursday night's meeting.
Developers were hoping to get approximately 100 acres of undeveloped land along Court Street, just outside the Port Allen city limits, rezoned from agricultural to classifications allowing for residential and commercial development.
"They're going to put in like 300 homes, and you're talking about two cars per household. It's going to make traffic worse," Pat Beatty said in an earlier interview before Thursday's meeting. "Plus there are draining and flooding issues that have to be addressed."
The request was already shot down by the parish's Planning and Zoning Committee, in a 7-1 vote, heading into Thursday night's meeting.
Developers and engineers associated with the proposed subdivision, to be called Westview Crossing, presented to the Parish Council preliminary drawings dividing the undeveloped land into nearly 350, 50-foot lots for single-family homes.
The subdivisions, they said, would feature underground utilities, curb and gutter streets, a homeowners association, sidewalks and a professionally landscaped entrance — similar to everything they did in Addis with their Sugar Mill residential community.
According to the stipulations of the Planned Unit Development zoning classification they were seeking, at least 50 percent of the total number of lots in such subdivisions must be no less than 70-feet wide.
"(Councilman Phil Porto) and I met with these gentlemen awhile back; they said 'We're going to need changes to that ordinance,' " Spillman said Thursday night. "I stopped the meeting and told them to tell me exactly what they need changed. They left and I never heard back from them again."
"When you start looking at what these drawings here … that's a red flag," he said.
Spillman said he believes if the Parish Council would have approved the zoning request, the developers would have returned down the line and tried to guilt the parish into granting variances that would have allowed them to push forward with their plans as they were presented at Thursday's meeting.
The Parish Council's voted 6-3 to deny the rezoning request. Council members Rick Loupe, Charlene Gordon, Phil Porto, Barry Hugghins and Edward Robertson backed Spillman's motion to deny. Voting against that motion were Kirk Allain, Naomi Fair and Chris "Fish" Kershaw.
Before the vote, Kershaw stressed that the project is only in the zoning phase and that developers and engineers still had time to tweak and address all the concerns discussed at the meeting.
"There's a lot of engineering work that has to be done. They have to come up with those answers," Kershaw said. "There are some things I don't like, but overall, it's a good project."
The project was also supported by Parish President Riley "Pee Wee" Berthelot, who expressed confidence to the council that the homes would sell quickly and address the growing need for more residential development in the parish.
The housing boom West Baton Rouge Parish has experienced over the past few years is showing …
"I think they're really just expecting the worst," Berthelot said about the public opposition.
Spillman later said, "They have the opportunity to still meet with the public and address concerns even if we shoot this down. If these gentlemen want to go back, put something else together and present it to us, they can."