Consultants for city-parish government estimate there will be 90,000 more residents in Lafayette Parish by 2030, and local leaders say there is no money to pay for new roads, ditches or other infrastructure beyond the city limits should those folks choose to move to big rural subdivisions.
“We are not really prepared for this as a city-parish government. … Our pattern of development is not necessarily sustainable,” said City-Parish Public Works Director Kevin Blanchard, introducing new regulations on Tuesday that were crafted in part to shift the focus of development back to the city.
The proposed regulations — called the Unified Development Code — are set to come before the City-Parish Council in May, and city-parish staff have been laying out the details in a series of meetings this week geared toward real estate agents, builders, engineers, architects and other professionals in the development community.
In some instances, the UDC would add new requirements for developers.
Sidewalks built as part of new developments would need to be wider, streets built in subdivisions would have to be more substantial, gravel parking lots would no longer be allowed within the city limits, and buried drainage pipes would be required where open ditches are now allowed.
But some requirements are loosening.
In rural areas of the parish, existing land-use regulations now mandate a certain amount of buffer space between new developments and existing homes and businesses, depending on how much the new development conflicts with what’s already in place.
The UDC proposes reducing those buffer zones, which the City-Parish Council routinely does anyway when developers ask for an exception.
“We took the buffers and brought them down to a more manageable level,” said City-Parish Development Manager Sara Gary.
There would be more noticeable changes are in the city limits.
Developers could build on smaller lots, and the distance between buildings and the property line — called a setback — would be reduced.
The UDC also would overhaul the city’s zoning classifications, opening up more areas of the city to mixed-used developments that combine apartments, offices, homes and businesses.
The proposed regulations aim to make it easier and more profitable to build within the city limits, where space is at a premium but where infrastructure is already in place.
Luring more developers back to the city is needed because tax revenue in the rural areas has not kept pace with the demand for roads, ditches, water lines and other needs, Blanchard said.
Budget projections for the coming years paint a dismal picture for new capital projects in rural Lafayette Parish, with tax revenue supporting baseline maintenance but not much else.
“No new roads. No new bridges. No new drainage projects,” Blanchard said.
The UDC is a central recommendation of Lafayette’s comprehensive plan, a guidebook for future growth and development that calls for, among other things, encouraging more quality developments in the city limits and creating a city more friendly for pedestrians.
“That’s the whole idea, to implement Plan Lafayette,” said City-Parish Planning Commission Chairman Bruce Conque.
The Planning Commission is set to review the new regulations on Monday.
Conque said he envisions a few possible tweaks but, in general, likes what he has seen so far, particularly the new regulations that will allow for more mixed-use developments in the city.
“Overall, I’m impressed with the zoning classifications,” he said.
The UDC would create 12 new zoning classifications, replacing the 18 in the current zoning code.
Attorney Stuart Breaux, who has been working with city-parish government on the new regulations, said the plan is to make the transition smooth, and most new zoning classifications for individual pieces of property will be comparable to the old.
But he said residents and business owners will have an opportunity to seek changes if they object to a classification under the new code.
Two more UDC workshops are set for this week: at the Rosa Parks Transportation Center Downtown, on Thursday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and on Friday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Follow Richard Burgess on Twitter, @rbb100.