St. Tammany Parish lost out when a reality television show called “Fierce Competitors” chose a different location for filming instead of what the owner of property along Apple Pie Ridge Road called an ideal setting.
But Nolan Trosclair told the St. Tammany Parish Council on Thursday that St. Tammany lost to its competition — St. Bernard Parish — not because his land wasn’t suitable but because of zoning restrictions.
Now, the Parish Council wants to find a way to make the land — which is in a sparsely populated, marshy area east of Slidell — available if a similar deal comes along.
Producers of the show wanted to spend four months at the site, and he wasn’t the only one who would have benefited, Trosclair said. Feeding the cast and crew would have created opportunities for local businesses.
The problem with his 4.8-acre parcel was the temporary warehouse-type structure the producers wanted to build on the property. That kind of structure isn’t allowed in residentially zoned areas, and Trosclair had sought to change his zoning from A1, a residential classification, to I-2, an industrial category that allows radio and television stations, in an attempt to accommodate their needs. But that change was shot down by the Parish Zoning Commission, and Trosclair said he now realizes that it was too drastic a change.
He appeared before the council to appeal the commission’s denial, but he told the council that he wanted instead a less intensive zoning, CB-1, Community-Based Facilities District, so that he won’t lose out on possible future deals.
Council members spoke in favor of a change, and even Terry Lynn Stevens, a fixture at Parish Council meetings who often objects to encroachments on residential areas, urged the council to find a way to help Trosclair, perhaps by allowing such a structure temporarily.
Councilman Richard Artigue said the property is not suitable for residential development. “Nobody needs to live there. It floods every time the east wind blows,” he said.
Councilman Chris Canulette agreed, saying the land floods at high tide and is a haven for raccoons, ducks, snakes and alligators — not people. Since Hurricane Katrina, another issue has plagued Apple Pie Ridge Road, he said: It has become a dumping ground.
If it became a film production location, that would create a welcome economic boost for the area, Canulette said, describing it as a scenic setting that would be a perfect place to film.
But the council’s stab at location scouting ran up against parish zoning regulations again. Sidney Fontenot, the parish planning director, said that under the parish’s comprehensive rezoning, conditional use permits to allow temporary facilities aren’t allowed.
As for Trosclair’s request for CB-1 zoning, Fontenot said, production of the reality show wouldn’t fit under that classification either.
The permitted uses under that zoning include golf courses, houses of worship, religious education facilities, clubs and lodges, and fraternal and religious institutions. A handful of other uses are allowed in that zone via an administrative permit, including snowball stands between April 1 and Sept. 30, Christmas tree lots between Nov. 1 and Jan. 1, seasonal seafood and produce stands, and fireworks sales.
The Parish Council was undeterred, however, voting to change the zoning to CB-1 and promising to look at creating a new classification that would accommodate the kind of business Trosclair lost.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.