Despite growing concerns over flooding in the region, the East Baton Rouge Planning Commission approved plans for two subdivisions that would contain a substantial amount of property in flood zones, but rejected a third.
After extended debate, the commission approved plans for the Park at Jones Creek, a 23 townhome development. About half of the land in the 4-acre development, on Jones Creek Road, south of South Harrell’s Ferry, is in a flood zone.
Also, a final development plan for Eliza Garden, a 30.8-acre development on Burbank Drive, was easily approved that will include 150 lots, despite the fact that 95% of the property is in a flood zone. The original concept plan for the development had been approved earlier this year.
Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks, who serves on the commission, said she is not comfortable with more building in flood zones. Banks said retention ponds “are not working functionally” in a lot of areas of the parish, where flooding is a problem.
“No one is taking any responsibility,” she said. “The developers say residents are supposed to maintain retention ponds. The residents say developers are supposed to maintain retention ponds.”
Commissioner Clifford Grout said he understood Banks’ concerns, but the commission should not unilaterally start making a moratorium on development in flood zones.
“We have to go by what’s in the Unified Development Code, what’s in the law,” he said.
Homeowners have expressed concern about development across metro Baton Rouge contributing to the frequent flooding over the past few years. Those concerns ramped up after a huge rainstorm in May caused significant flash flooding.
In Ascension Parish, a nine-month moratorium on new subdivisions took effect on Thursday, but not before parish planning officials approved several new neighborhoods on Wednesday.
Some East Baton Rouge leaders have talked about a moratorium, but none has been formally proposed. Instead, city-parish officials have emphasized millions of dollars in anti-flooding projects that are in the works.
The commission voted down a subdivision plan for The Gardens at Forest Park, a 26-unit, zero-lot-line development, where the homes come up to the property line. The subdivision would have been built on a 3.9-acre site at 14344 South Harrell’s Ferry Road, about 25% of which is in a flood zone.
Planning commission members had concerns about several issues, including a cooperative endeavor agreement with the late BREC Commissioner Eugene Young over how the land would be used, how drainage would flow off of the site and plans to tie into the drainage at South Harrell’s Ferry Road Park.
“This item has a lot of problems,” said Commissioner Ulysses “Bones” Addison.
He said that, as discussion about the subdivision got more and more intense, “people raised issues I haven’t even thought of.”