DONALDSONVILLE - The Ascension Parish Council gave preliminary consent Thursday to removing from a parish historic district one of the state’s first Roman Catholic schools for black children.
The decision still must be followed by formal adoption of an ordinance but, if approved, would remove development restrictions tied to the district that applies to the site and to land near St. Joseph’s School.
Built in Convent with a grant from a sainted nun, the Burnside school is now located on the site of The Cabin Restaurant in a complex of buildings at La. 22 and La. 44. The school building was moved to the site in the 1980s.
The council vote came as part of a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit between the parish and the school and Cabin owner, restaurateur and preservationist Al Robert.
In March, the parish sued in state District Court over unpermitted improvements and building relocations at The Cabin site.
The settlement included having the parish initiate the process of removing the school from the parish historic overlay district.
In an 8-0 vote, the council backed the proposed zoning change Thursday. The parish Zoning Commission recommended the council do so last month. Council President Pat Bell and Councilman George Valentine were absent.
Councilman Randy Clouatre, council vice chairman, did not vote because he served as acting chairman Thursday.
Last year, the restaurant and schoolhouse owner, Robert, successfully petitioned the National Park Service to remove the schoolhouse from the National Register of Historic Places because the schoolhouse had lost its historic setting.
The parish historic overlay ordinance applies only to buildings that are on the register.
Al Robert Jr., son of Al Robert and his attorney in the parish lawsuit, said that according to the controlling ordinance, the only criteria to be considered is whether or not the school building is listed on the register.
He said it would be arbitrary and capricious and contrary to parish law to fail to accept the commission recommendation to remove the school building from the historic district.
Gail Robert, Al Robert’s brother who heads up a family oil distribution business located next to The Cabin and the school, said the ordinance was in conflict with the Roberts’ expansion plans in that area.