The day before a moratorium on major new construction in Ascension Parish takes effect, the parish planning commission will reconsider two controversial new neighborhoods.

It's also set to hear an unusually high number of special, small-scale, new lot divisions for families at its meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Gonzales. 

Spurred by a May rainstorm that that flooded more than 160 homes, the Parish Council adopted a nine-month moratorium on new lot divisions June 17. It's an effort to give parish leaders time to update Ascension drainage and building rules.

The council moratorium stops the creation of new neighborhood and individual lot plans, which essentially cuts off the supply of future lots. But it doesn't stop building on existing properties and neighborhoods, nor does it halt new lot proposals already in the parish's review pipeline before the moratorium takes effect.

Martin McConnell, parish government spokesman, said all the proposals on Wednesday's commission agenda were submitted before the development moratorium took effect. 

One of the neighborhoods up for consideration is the proposed 237-home Delaune Estates along La. 73 in Prairieville. That plan has roiled the Parish Council and administration on and off for more than a year because of concerns over traffic it could cause. It is currently the subject of a lawsuit by the landowners against parish government.

The developer returns to the commission armed with a new traffic study showing the benefit of a new, wider Interstate 10. The study accounts for the impact of Bluff Elementary School and the Baton Rouge General-Ascension hospital that have opened on La. 73 since the commission narrowly rejected the neighborhood in March 2020.

The other neighborhood, the 103-home Windermere Crossing northeast of Gonzales, is seeking a change to its layout to account for a recent impact fee agreement with parish government.

On July 1, the Parish Council and developer Dantin Bruce Development agreed that the company would widen a longer stretch of the notoriously narrow Cannon Road than earlier approved.

Dantin Bruce would get credit for the $753,000 in road work against future impact fees from the homes in the project. Even with the credit, the company will pay well more out of pocket for the widening job, parish officials have said.

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In exchange, the community would no longer have a second exit onto Roddy Road and have one on Cannon, requiring a commission change to the neighborhood plan.

The parish will get a 20-foot-wide section of Cannon from Roddy to La. 44, commission and council documents say, which is longer and wider than the 18-foot widening of Cannon from Roddy to O'Neal Road that the commission had approved in January.

In addition to the subdivisions, the commission agenda includes more than a dozen land divisions known as "family partitions," well above the monthly norm. The land divisions have eased development rules and are set aside for family heirs. 

All new Ascension laws take some time to go into effect after passage at the council, giving the parish president 10 days to consider a veto and then going through public notice requirements.

Under the home rule charter, an ordinance can't take effect any sooner than five days "after its publication in the official journal."

By the parish administration's count, the "fifth day" is Wednesday. Thursday is the first day the moratorium takes effect, McConnell said.

The developer of Delaune Estates appealed to the Parish Council in July 2020 but didn't garner enough votes to overturn the commission. That led to a $7 million lawsuit from the landowners in September.

In mid-April, when the Parish Council adopted a compromise to approve the subdivision, but with 10 fewer lots than proposed, and also end the suit, Parish President Clint Cointment vetoed it. Cointment had advocated in planning and council meetings for the project's rejection.

The suit accuses the president of having personal liability for the landowners' damages due to project's failure.

Since the veto, with the litigation still pending, the landowners have reapplied with updated traffic engineering that, they say, shows the improvement of I-10 has mitigated the traffic concerns to their project.


Email David J. Mitchell at dmitchell@theadvocate.com

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.

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