The city-parish will continue to make zoning decisions on property located within the boundaries of St. George despite calls from a homeowners' association that East Baton Rouge not make land-use decisions in the area until leaders of the newly approved municipality can have their say.
Bill Gibson, the president of the Audubon Terrace/Morning Glen homeowners association, sent an email to the planning director and a council member Sunday requesting the city-parish defer future action on zoning-related decisions located inside the boundaries of St. George until the new city is up and running.
Gibson’s request grew out of concerns over the development of land near the intersection of Siegen Lane and Interstate 10. The city-parish partially green-lighted plans this year to rezone lots for office buildings despite worries among residents that their neighborhood’s narrow roads wouldn’t be able to handle the additional traffic. Only one street connects the neighborhood to Siegen Lane.
Gibson said that given the outcome of last Saturday’s election — in which 54% of voters in southeastern portion of the parish approved the new city — any further action without St. George’s input would be “inappropriate” and a “conflict-of-interest” for the city-parish.
Less than two days after voters in the southeastern corner of East Baton Rouge voted to create the new city of St. George, discussions in some…
On Wednesday, the Parish Attorney’s Office weighed in on Gibson’s letter, concluding that the city-parish should “proceed with business as usual” in processing rezoning requests until the city of St. George is officially incorporated and considered a legal entity.
“At this juncture, despite the election, there is no City of St. George,” wrote Kim Brooks, an assistant parish attorney. “There is no person or entity within the City of St. George that can make any governing decisions, including a planning and zoning decision.”
St. George is set to become one of the largest cities in the state, with a population of more than 86,000. But first, the Secretary of State's Office must verify the election results, then the chairman of the St. George committee must publish those results, and then the governor must appoint a mayor and five-member council.
If St. George faces a legal challenge, however, there’s no telling how long the city’s incorporation could be delayed. Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome hinted at the potential for litigation in a letter to St. George’s organizers Tuesday.
"After evaluation of the referendum surrounding the incorporation of the city of St. George, I have met with senior advisers and legal counsel to discuss (Revised Statute) 33:4 of state law, as we explore all options," her statement read. R.S. 33:4 outlines how an incorporation effort can be challenged in court.
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome said Tuesday she and her senior advisers are exploring all options East Baton Rouge Parish has in a possible challe…
In an interview Thursday, Gibson, the homeowners association president, clarified that he wasn’t interested in a wholesale moratorium on zoning decisions, but instead wanted the planning commission to defer the relevant requests for 60 to 90 days to give St. George’s soon-to-be appointed leaders the opportunity to offer input.
“St. George should have a voice on any and all actions that involves property within the city’s proposed boundaries,” Gibson said. “Even if it is one lone voice, I think it should be heard.”
Still, it’s possible the governor wouldn’t appoint interim leaders for St. George until a legal challenge is settled, according to John Gallagher, the executive director of the Louisiana Municipal Association. That could make it difficult to determine who exactly should represent St. George at the planning commission meetings.
The city-parish’s planning director Frank Duke said the planning commission will continue to move forward with applications, including six up for consideration in the next two months that are located in the newly approved city.
That includes two applications on the Nov. 18 agenda to rezone a little more than 10 acres just north of Audubon Terrace to build offices. Arthur Metrailer, who submitted the applications, said he understands where Gibson is coming from, but questioned how long it will take before officials from St. George could actually offer input.
In creating a new city in the southeastern portion of East Baton Rouge Parish, voters also created a bit of confusion for residents long accus…
“Sixty-to-90 days could turn out to be two-to-three years,” Metrailer said, adding that they had previously delayed the application to work with the homeowners association.
Duke said the city-parish’s planning commission continued to process applications under a two-year transition agreement with Central after voters there incorporated a new city in 2005.
He emphasized that the planning commission meetings were open to the public and “anyone can come in and provide a voice on any case we have,” including those living within the boundaries of the proposed city.
Gibson, however, said he believes residents of his neighborhood would get a fairer hearing if officials from St. George had a say. He didn't believe the zoning panel paid attention to neighborhood residents previously.
Worried about potential confusion from the vote to create a new City of St. George, East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Warren Drake on Wed…
“Plainly, they didn’t listen to us,” Gibson said. “We really feel like the planning commission is going to approve this regardless of what our feelings are. They won’t listen to our voice.”