Sherwood Forest residents spoke out against a proposed 280-lot subdivision that would be built on the site of the old Sherwood Forest Country Club golf course, saying they are concerned it would lead to flooding, traffic problems and reduce home values and dismissed a proposed tweak to the development.
More than 200 people attended a public meeting Thursday night at St. Thomas More Catholic Church with the developer, Arthur Lancaster, and the civil engineer for the development, Mickey Robertson. Lancaster is proposing rezoning an 87-acre section of the golf course to build Lakes at Legacy.
“I haven’t seen that many people in a meeting in Baton Rouge since I got here,” said Frank Duke, East Baton Rouge planning director. “This is an indication the neighborhood is concerned. That’s a good thing.”
The East Baton Rouge Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on Lancaster’s request to rezone the property from A1 residential to A2.7 at its Sept. 16 meeting. Lancaster wants the rezoning to develop lots that are 50 feet wide, since A1 requires lots be at least 75 feet wide. The narrower lots are needed to make the development economically feasible.
Originally, Lancaster sought to rezone the property as rural because that designation also allows for 50-foot-wide lots, but residents in nearby subdivisions complained that could open the door to mobile home parks.
Robertson said the decision was made to seek rural rezoning instead of A2.7 because it was “less invasive.” Robertson noted that A2.7 zoning allows for greater home density.
Another rezoning change could be in the works. Robertson said plans are being discussed to keep the lots on the edges of the Lakes at Legacy that border existing homes in the neighborhood zoned A1 with 75-foot lots, while the homes in the center of the neighborhood would be rezoned to allow for greater density.
However, that comment seemed to have little sway with the people who attended the meeting. The vast majority of the homeowners at the meeting said their property flooded in August 2016 and they are concerned about the development leading to future flooding.
Tom Balhoff, who said he lives on what used to be the second fairway of the Sherwood Forest golf course, said most of the homes on the property flooded three years ago. Balhoff said he’s concerned about plans to take dirt out of Jones Creek, which runs through the Lakes at Legacy, and use it to build up the elevation of lots in the development. “How is this going to affect drainage?” he said. “How will water get off of my property and into Jones Creek?”
Robertson said the Lakes at Legacy will not affect drainage in nearby neighborhoods and methods will be used to collect rainfall and drain it into Jones Creek. He said the city-parish Department of Public Works will clean out the drainage in the development, a statement that drew jeers from the audience.
Faith Miller said she and her husband have a home on Sheraton Drive under a purchase contract, but she’s concerned about the Lakes at Legacy. Instead of having a balcony overlooking a golf course, she’s going to be looking into people’s backyards. And the home, which didn’t flood three years ago, could be affected by the new development.
“Is there anything you can tell me as to why I shouldn’t back out of this contract right now?” she asked Robertson. “Because my gut is telling me backing out is the right decision.”
Robertson said the development will not increase the amount of water draining onto Miller’s property.
William Jorden, who lives in Sherwood Forest, said the existing houses there have “a lot of character, which makes them very appealing.” Jorden said he’s concerned about what having hundreds of starter homes in the neighborhood will do to his property value.
Homes in the Lakes at Legacy will range in size from 1,600 to 2,000 square feet and will be priced between $220,000 and $280,000. That will make the price per square foot $140. Robertson said that’s more than the $80- to $110-per square-foot remodeled houses nearby are selling for.