The proposed Baton Rouge Health District took a step forward Tuesday when the East Baton Rouge Parish Planning Commission recommended adopting the district into the city-parish’s comprehensive plan.
The parish Metro Council will have the final say on whether to make that happen. The health district would redevelop the Essen Lane/Perkins Road/Bluebonnet Boulevard corridor with the possible additions of new roads for north/south and east/west connections, as well as a possible diabetes and obesity center and even a four-year medical school.
The Planning Commission vote Tuesday was 7-3. A few members objected after questions were raised about forming a health district in south Baton Rouge when north Baton Rouge no longer has an emergency room.
“It makes a huge statement to residents in north Baton Rouge that the health care of citizens in south Baton Rouge is more important than the health care of citizens in north Baton Rouge,” said Gary Chambers, who publishes the commentary website TheRougeCollection.net and who spoke against approving the plan.
Planning Commissioner and Assistant Chief Administrative Officer John Price called it a fallacy to relate a lack of medical resources in north Baton Rouge to plans to bolster the hospitals in south Baton Rouge. Price said the infrastructure in south Baton Rouge is available to make the health district happen, and the city-parish should take advantage of it.
“The idea that you would deny this because of that, I don’t see the connection between the two,” Price said.
City-parish Planning Director Frank Duke said approval of the plan would not dedicate any dollars to bringing the health district to life. He said he is sympathetic to the plight of north Baton Rouge, but the health district for south Baton Rouge is an acknowledgement that hospitals in proximity to each other would work together to improve overall health care.
The three “no” votes came from Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker and Planning Commissioners Gregory J. DuCote and Rossie Washington Jr. Wicker said she wanted more time to talk over the proposals, but she knew she would get to vote on them again at the Metro Council.
Duke, meanwhile, said he has already been invited to discuss the health district plan at the American Planning Association’s national conference in the spring. He acknowledged that north Baton Rouge is not well-represented in the city-parish’s Future BR master plan but said he is actively working to dedicate more attention to that part of the community.
The Baton Rouge Health District was unveiled in December. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation spearheaded the effort with a $700,000 plan, while a coalition of health care providers, government agencies and higher education institutions are also involved.
In other matters Tuesday, the Planning Commission:
Approved a revision to the plan for the Rouzan development, a vote developer Tommy Spinosa called “a significant step forward.” Spinosa said he wanted the change to make smaller lots in the traditional neighborhood development, which he said would appeal to broader segments of the population.
Some neighbors objected to the changes, but Spinosa said the plans for Rouzan would not increase the density or the number of units and would affect only the size of the lots and the neighborhood edge.
Approved two developments near the Goodwood subdivision.
One, called Overton Walk, will have 17 single-family homes south of Old Hammond Highway and east of Brentwood Drive. They will range from $400,000 to $800,000.
The other is called Township at Old Goodwood, and it will feature eight single-family homes east of Lobdell Avenue and north of Lasalle Avenue. Those prices range from $600,000 and to about $1 million.