GONZALES — With the Gonzales City Council giving the green light Monday to a major rezoning request, the transformation of a former cattle ranch on La. 44 into a mixed-used community took its next step forward.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission last week recommended the city approve the request of Southern Lifestyle Development to rezone approximately 106 acres of the tract as a traditional neighborhood development, combining retail and residential, and 204 acres as residential, with lots of 6,000 square feet.
“This is a wonderful development. I’m proud to see it be a part of the city of Gonzales,” Councilman Kenny Matassa said of the new community planned for 344 acres on La. 44 just south of Interstate 10.
The developers of Conway Plantation, as the new community will be named, also will be building a northbound traffic lane on their property, making two northbound lanes to I-10 from La. 44, a heavily traveled roadway.
In his motion to approve the rezoning request, Matassa also included a request that the city meet with the state Department of Transportation and Development to see if anything can be done to improve southbound traffic on the state highway.
Prescott Bailey, area president for Southern Lifestyle Development, said after the meeting that the company anticipates closing on the $8 million purchase of the property from the heirs of Merritt P. Evans, who once raised cattle on the land, in the next 45 days.
Also on Monday, the newest Gonzales City Council member, Harold Stewart, was sworn into office by Judge Alvin Turner Jr., of the 23rd Judicial District Court.
Stewart was elected March 28 to the Division C seat formerly held by Timothy Vessel, who was recalled by voters in December and who was in the audience at Monday night’s meeting but made no public comment.
Stewart joins Neal Bourque as the two new members on the five-person council. Bourque took his place on the council earlier this year, when he was unopposed for the seat formerly held by Gary Lacombe, who resigned last year.
Judge Turner and Gonzales Police Chief Sherman Jackson presented retired city employee Barbara Duhe, who had served as the interim appointee for the Division C seat until the March 28 election, with a bouquet of flowers as she stepped down from her time in office, commending her for her service.
“You made the distinction of being the first black woman on the Gonzales City Council,” Turner said.
Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.