GONZALES — A divided Ascension Parish Planning Commission allowed new home construction to start Wednesday on a new phase of Parker Place Estates in an area of Prairieville where drainage concerns almost derailed another neighborhood proposal four months ago.
Though a parish official and a consulting engineer for Parker Place acknowledged a drainage fix for the area has not yet been developed, they contended the second phase of Parker Place Estates has “stand-alone” drainage from the trouble areas and should be allowed to proceed.
“We have taken care of Parker Place II in and of itself not to exacerbate the problem that’s already there,” Chad Stevens, the engineer representing the developer of Parker Place’s second phase, told the commission Wednesday.
A majority of the commission agreed in a 4-2 vote.
The subdivision phase off La. 929 in Prairieville has roads and other infrastructure built and was awaiting on final approval.
But the phase also is being built next to the future site of the controversial Brookstone subdivision.
The developers of Brookstone, seeking the first major approval from the parish, faced fierce neighborhood opposition over drainage concerns that almost killed the project in February.
Parish engineers noted then that they suspected flaws in drainage design for older, existing subdivisions, including the first phase of Parker Place Estates and the adjacent Shadows of Ascension, were contributing to the flooding. The two subdivisions share a rain runoff detention pond.
In part because of the drainage worries, the commission rejected 3-1 the 86-home Brookstone as parish officials said then that engineers tied with Brookstone, Parker Place and Shadows of Ascension were asked to work on a solution.
A parish planning appeals board later reversed 2-1 the commission’s Feb. 10 vote in mid-April and allowed Brookstone’s preliminary plat to go forward for more detailed parish review.
But the promised drainage fix has not happened yet and continues to be worked on, Stevens and Shaun Sherrow, the parish’s consulting engineer, told the commission Wednesday.
Sherrow explained, though, that the second phase of Parker Place has a separate detention pond that allows the drainage system essentially to stand alone from the other problem drainage systems.
Commissioner Douglas Foster said the unresolved drainage issues for the older subdivisions and the question about their underlying studies posed a health and safety issue. With Commissioner Aaron Chaisson, Foster voted to deny the final plat despite Sherrow’s and Stevens’ assurances. Four other commissioners, Morrie Bishop, Edward Dudley, Julio Dumas and Anthony Christy, voted to allow Parker Place to proceed. Commission Chairman Matt Pryor does not vote unless to break a tie.
Foster said after the meeting that his impression was that past drainage studies were done poorly.
“So, now you’re here telling us, giving us a whole bunch of opinions about how it’s going to be now when the very basis of that is garbage, so garbage in, garbage out is the way that I look at it,” he said.
Chaisson added that until the “original flaw” is fixed, anything that’s added in the area creates a safety issue.
“I mean those poor people’s homes keep getting flooded and flooded and flooded, and we’re just contributing more and more and more,” he said.