GONZALES — A divided Ascension Parish Planning Commission on Wednesday blocked a hotel and restaurant development proposed for Houmas House plantation.
The decision came despite warnings from its owner that delay could risk a multi-million-dollar federal grant connected with the project.
The 4-3 vote revolved around the prospect of granting conditional approval before changes are made to a zoning law in conflict with the project.
Residents who wanted the commission to block the development project accused parish officials of trying to give owner Kevin Kelly special treatment while they have been pushing to get rid of that law, called a planned unit development overlay.
The law requires PUDs on developments of more than three acres. Kelly does not want a PUD because of its long-term restrictions.
Commissioner Bob Nance moved to deny the project. Nance turned down a request from Commissioner Julio Dumas to grant approval to the project if it hinged on repealing the PUD overlay.
Kelly is proposing the development in connection with a steamboat museum on the Mississippi River batture that has been awarded a $5.2 million federal grant.
The planning and zoning meetings came amid a running dispute over the project and the overlay.
Kelly has accused two commissioners of trying to blackmail him to support abolition of the PUD overlay.
The commissioners, Daniel Satterlee and Milton Clouatre Jr., have denied the claims and threatened litigation. Satterlee and Clouatre recused themselves Wednesday and left the hearing room during the Planning Commission discussion and vote.
Planning Commission Chairman Michael Marchand had to break a 3-3 tie to block the design review. Those also voting to deny were Commissioners J.B. Esnard, Nance and Susana Zarazua-Gradine. Those voting “no” were Commissioners Howard Dalton, Dumas and Stephen Barrow.