GONZALES — The Ascension Parish Council took little time Thursday in repealing a planned unit development overlay ordinance from its unified land development code.
Moving the item up to the top of its regular meeting agenda, the council voted 9-0 to eliminate the overlay.
Councilman Randy Clouatre was absent from the meeting.
The decision removes an overlay that many parish residents have opposed for more than a year, claiming it restricted the rights of property owners.
The council vote came after a lengthy discussion on the matter at Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting, where that group reversed its August decision and conditionally approved a large-scale expansion at Houmas House plantation that had originally been denied because of the PUD overlay.
The recommended resolution called for the proposed Houmas House plan, which centers on a steamboat museum partially funded with a $5.2 million federal grant, to move forward only if the Parish Council voted to abolish the PUD overlay that has blocked the proposal.
PUDs are a flexible style of development that includes homes, parks and commercial areas. However, that flexibility and housing density have brought opposition from parish residents.
Three council districts, including the one where Houmas House is located, were under the PUD overlay districts, which controlled development on parcels larger than three acres.
Houmas House owner Kevin Kelly is proposing to build a hotel, a series of bed and breakfast cottages along an oak alley, conference rooms and other improvements in connection with the steamboat museum.
Kelly has said that he does not want a PUD because of its long-term restrictions.
More than two dozen residents and business owners asked the commission Wednesday to conditionally approve the Houmas House project, calling it a positive economic development boost for the parish.
Thursday’s meeting saw only six speakers during a public hearing, all asking the council to abolish the overlay.
Phil Gautier called the overlay a “hindrance to legitimate and beneficial growth.”
Meanwhile, Kathryn Goppelt said she felt the PUD overlay was not needed to continue responsible growth in the parish, while still retaining the parish’s rural character.
Kelly attended Thursday’s council meeting, but did not speak.