Ascension Parish government is on the cusp of adopting new rules limiting the amount of dirt that can be used to raise homes and businesses in the flood plain.
In low-lying Ascension, where much of the remaining available land needs elevation to meet flood insurance requirements, these changes could present a major obstacle to future development.
The parish plans a public meeting at 4 p.m. Monday at the parish Governmental Complex, 615 E. Worthey St., Gonzales, to hear from the public and the building and real estate industry.
The proposal to limit the use of fill comes in response to the August 2016 flood that inundated thousands of homes in the parish, intensifying long-standing criticism that the existing fill practices used in new neighborhoods were pushing water on older, lower homes.
Developers counter that they don't add dirt to the flood plain but reshape what's already there to raise homes and mitigate any impact with detention ponds. Parish officials have said homes in newer subdivisions and built with the current fill practices did not flood for the most part in 2016.
The new rules would limit the use of dirt to no more than 3 feet deep, meaning homes that need to be raised higher than that would have be built on elevated foundations or on pier and beam.
Councilwoman Teri Casso, the chairwoman of the Parish Council, said she has spoken with some developers who tell her they are willing to comply with whatever rules the parish proposes because buyers want to come to Ascension.
While some of her colleagues on the council had called for a virtual moratorium on the use of fill, Casso has taken a more cautious approach.
But she said Friday that builders believe well built and aesthetically pleasing houses on piers will sell, countering an argument raised by others in the building industry that initially concerned Casso.
Still, some developers say they plan to speak out Monday against the proposed changes.
Local builder Billy Aguillard said the 2016 flood was the result of a backwater inundation and that there is little that realistically could have been done to prevent it. He contends that mitigated fill doesn't worsen flooding and rejected the idea that new development caused others to flood.
"There's no new subdivisions affecting anybody's flooding, period," Aguillard said.
The public meeting on Monday comes before a final Parish Council vote 6 p.m. Thursday in Gonzales.