The St. Tammany Parish Zoning Commission is not happy with the way the parish Department of Planning & Development is handling a proposed ordinance that would define “reception venues” and regulate where the establishments can be located.

Commission members expressed their displeasure in no uncertain terms at their Feb. 6 meeting.

The ordinance, drafted by the planning department, was submitted to the Zoning Commission for its consideration at the commission’s January meeting. It defines a reception venue as “an establishment providing space for meetings, receptions, or similar gatherings,” and provides for three size categories.

Small venues would have a capacity of no more than 150 people; medium venues could serve more than 150 and fewer than 500 people; and large venues would have a capacity of 500 people or more.

As written, the ordinance would allow small venues to be located in NC-4 neighborhood institutional zoning districts; medium venues in NC-6 neighborhood public, cultural, and recreational districts; and large venues in HC-2 highway commercial districts.

When public comments were opened in January, Mandeville resident Carlo Hernandez pointed out that reception venues would likely serve alcohol, something that is not allowed in NC-4. Hernandez suggested that small, medium and large venues be restricted to NC-6, HC-1 highway commercial, and HC-2, respectively, all of which allow alcohol to be served.

Hernandez also pointed out that the ordinance did not specify how much parking would be required for the venues, and he suggested that language be added requiring the same amount of parking as for restaurants with lounges.

Commissioners were receptive to Hernandez’s suggestions and also said the ordinance should require all activities to be held inside of a permanent structure so they could not be held outdoors or in temporary tents.

After further discussion, commissioners postponed action on the ordinance and requested that the planning department come back in a month with a rewritten ordinance incorporating their suggestions.

However, when the ordinance came back up for discussion at the Feb. 6 meeting, none of the requested changes were in it, touching off a protracted lambasting of that result by several commissioners.

“I thought we were in agreement about this,” Commissioner Jimmie Davis said.

Ron Randolph followed up, “I thought the changes would be brought back tonight.” Commission Chairman Dave Mannella added a restrained, “I thought we were quite clear on what our expectations were. I’m disappointed that they’re not in writing.”

Assistant planning director Helen Lambert responded that commissioners could amend the ordinance to include the desired changes and approve it as amended, but that did not sit well with the members, who wanted a rewritten ordinance published for public review prior to the next hearing.

Speaking on behalf of the body, Mannella instructed Lambert to rewrite the ordinance and bring it back for more discussion at the group’s March 6 meeting, and suggested that it would be postponed indefinitely if that did not happen.

Later in the meeting, commissioners postponed for two months a request by Fourth Chukker LLC and Catherine Alba to rezone 10.44 acres near Covington on the east side of East U.S. 190 Service Road, south of Melody Lane and north of Slemmer Road. The petitioners would like to have the property changed from a mix of residential and commercial zoning to the more intense HC-2A highway commercial district.

Michael Saucier, of Gulf States Real Estate Services, representing the petitioners, told commissioners he needed time to resolve recently discovered title issues and to meet with the residents of the adjacent Kings Forest subdivision, who turned out in numbers to oppose the rezoning request.