GONZALES — The Gonzales City Council on Monday approved paying an additional $20,000 to a Baton Rouge nonprofit so it can begin rewriting the city’s zoning ordinances in addition to its work of creating a new master land use plan for the city.
In particular, the Center for Planning Excellence, also known as CPEX, will be looking at zoning for apartments in the city, which is the type of zoning getting the most interest from property owners and builders, City Clerk Clay Stafford told the council.
Inquiries about apartment zoning seem to be coming from “every piece of property on the interstate,” Stafford said.
The city is interested in looking again at its ordinance on the density, or number of apartment units per acre.
Zoning for apartments in Gonzales is set at 10 units per acre.
In the past, Gonzales Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Frank Cagnolatti has said that studies have shown that higher-density apartment zoning attracts a high quality of apartment development with more amenities for renters.
The Center for Planning Excellence is in the final stages of developing a new land use plan for Gonzales. It began in April to replace the city’s land use plan that dates back to 1997, at a cost of $162,500.
In addition to the $20,220 the council approved for CPEX to rewrite the city’s apartment zoning, it will cost about $40,000 more for CPEX to rewrite the city’s remaining zoning ordinances, Stafford said.
The council will take up the issue of additional funding for the rest of the zoning rewrite project at future meetings.
On Monday night, the City Council also unanimously approved rezoning two tracts of property that last year generated two lawsuits against the city: the rezoning of a 25-acre tract on Burnside Avenue from retail to the next level of commercial with a special use permit for a warehouse business, and the rezoning of 28 acres at Worthey Road and Darla Avenue from a larger residential lot size to a smaller lot size.
Resident Tyrone Smith questioned the council’s taking up the matter again as did Councilman Terance Irvin, but city attorney Erin Lanoux said the council can act on its own authority to return to zoning issues and that the two rezoning requests had gone through the proper channels with the Planning and Zoning Commission.
It’s unclear how the new rezoning now in place after Monday night’s vote will affect the two lawsuits that came in the wake of last year’s 3-2 council vote to reject those same rezoning requests.
Judge Alvin Turner Jr., of the 23rd Judicial District Court, who filed the lawsuit over the property at Worthey Road and Darla Avenue, later sold the property but remained a plaintiff in the suit against the city.
He said after Monday’s meeting that the council’s action on the rezoning was “a monumental step toward resolution of the matter.”
In a short ceremony prior to the City Council meeting, new Gonzales City Councilman Neal Bourque was sworn into office.
Bourque became the new council member for the Division E seat formerly held by Gary Lacombe, who resigned in November before a December recall election targeting Lacombe and councilman Timothy Vessel, who was recalled by voters.
Bourque, who was an active volunteer with the recall effort, was unopposed in the race for the Division E seat that had been represented on an interim basis by Gonzales resident David Guitreau.
Three candidates are vying for the Division C seat left vacant when Vessel was recalled. The election will be March 28.