GONZALES — Gonzales is writing a new chapter in its history as it gets closer to adopting an updated zoning code on the heels of having adopted a new master growth plan last August.
“We’re growing right now, and we knew we had to have a different plan of action,” Mayor Barney Arceneaux said of the city’s new master plan and the work on a new zoning law.
The reworked zoning ordinance, now in draft form, is a natural follow-up to the master plan, which introduced new concepts for the city — like a downtown Main Street District and more diversity in housing — that calls for new zoning regulations to support them, city officials said.
“The ordinance amendments are intended to align the zoning with the master plan,” said Janet Tharp, associate planning director for the nonprofit Center for Planning Excellence , based in Baton Rouge.
The city hired the nonprofit to write its master plan and subsequently hired the organization to update its zoning ordinance.
“It was an old ordinance that was difficult to use and not very clear,” Tharp said of the city’s current zoning code.
“The master plan was the higher level, bigger picture,” she said. “The zoning code proposals are more about adjusting the tools.”
The zoning ordinance as now drafted maintains the city’s original zoning categories and adds six more: parks and open space; agriculture and detached family living; mixed use; retail and personal services — a commercial designation that would be applied to the Main Street District; commercial and employment uses; and multifamily living, with up to 25 units per acre.
The multifamily living zoning would allow for higher-density apartment developments and would call for developers to include a certain number of amenities, depending on the number of apartment units.
Those amenity options, as described in the proposed new zoning code, would include a clubhouse, swimming pool, dog park, playground, splash park, walking path and car-wash station.
Gonzales City Clerk Clay Stafford said he’s heard from landowners who are excited about possibly developing upper-scale apartment communities in the city.
The combined effect of the new master plan and the proposed new zoning code is “more flexibility to deal with economic growth,” Stafford said.
Things like parking, landscaping and buffer zones for different types of businesses and developments also are addressed in the updated zoning regulations, said Gonzales Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Frank Cagnolatti.
Zoning for existing businesses will be grandfathered in, he said.
If adopted, which seems likely, the new zoning code would be “more clear and more thorough” than what the city had before, he said.
Most recently, new development for Gonzales has come along La. 44, south of Interstate 10, in the form of the Conway community, a development that will offer retail stores, apartments, homes, parks and lakes.
Construction is expected to begin this year.
The move in Gonzales toward defining and expanding its master plan and zoning for new development appears in stark contrast to recent events outside the city limits, in Ascension Parish.
Earlier this month, a Parish Council committee recommended a six-month moratorium on new subdivision proposals for the east bank of the parish. The recommendation will go before the council for a vote possibly next month.
In Gonzales, the draft of its new zoning ordinance will be introduced to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday.
Public meetings will follow, the first of which will be held on April 4 at City Hall on Irma Boulevard, before the ordinance goes before the City Council for a vote.
The proposed new zoning ordinance can be found on the city’s website, gonzalesla.com.
The Center for Planning Excellence invites people to send comments on the zoning code draft to Lauren Marschall, project manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or to call at (225) 389-7197.
Tharp said the draft is being read carefully by others.
Developers have called about typos they found, she said.
“People are looking at it,” Tharp said. “It will be well vetted.”