DONALDSONVILLE — The Ascension Parish Council has agreed to close what some say were loopholes in the long-standing parish family partition process that allows landowners to divide property with family and skirt typical development requirements.
But a proposed family partition in St. Amant that prompted these newly adopted changes and has been held up as a prime example of how the rules are being abused was set to return to the parish Planning Commission Nov. 12 with a revised plan.
Louis Stafford, 71, of Gonzales, the owner of the 80-acre site that has been the subject of complaints, said Tuesday that he expects the commission will reject his request for a second time since August and promised to bring it to a commission appeal board and even to court if needed.
He agreed his request “probably is” an abuse of the family partition process but added similar partitions have been approved over the past 20 to 30 years, in some cases involving hundreds of lots over time.
“It’s just the principle,” Stafford said Tuesday.
“They (parish officials) have done that for years and years and years and all of a sudden when I go, I can’t get it done. I have no future plans for those lots other than to give it to my kids and grandkids.”
Family partitions were intended to allow families to keep their children and grandchildren together as large family tracts are broken up. The partitions allow newly created lots that are donated to family members access to public roads through substandard private roads.
But parish officials and some residents have claimed the rules are being abused to sell off land to those outside the family or to set up rental homes or mobile homes inside what are, in essence, substandard developments.
Neighbors have repeatedly said that Stafford is trying to carve a mobile home park from cattle pasture off La. 936 and get around the parish’s expensive mobile home park standards.
“I’m currently building a pretty expensive home right now and looks like I’m going to be having some trailers directly across the street from me with new tenants so I ask that you pass this provision,” St. Amant resident Brandon Boquet said shortly before the Parish Council approved the family partition changes Nov. 6 in Donaldsonville.
Stafford, who doesn’t live on the site, and his wife, Cynthia Stafford, a real estate broker in Ascension, are large landholders in Ascension.
But Louis Stafford disputed he was trying to create a mobile home park and said family members are living in the trailers already on the site.
His proposed partition would create two lots behind a row of lots along La. 936 that Stafford had created previously through a standard land division method. The new family lots, which Stafford says in his application would go to his son and daughter, would be created along a private road off La. 936. Without the private road, which has a narrower right of way than what parish rules require, the proposed lots would be landlocked, plans show.
Among the family partition changes the council adopted, 9-0, some are squarely aimed at what Stafford is trying to do.
The new ordinance says family partitions are a variance to relieve landowners of hardships that prevent them from easily breaking up their property through other means. But the new rules have been rewritten to block what parish officials have termed “self-created hardships.”
In Stafford’s case, that includes blocking landowners from breaking up large tracts using the parish’s simple land division rules and then using a family partition later to open up access to property that was landlocked by the simple divisions.
Planning Director Ricky Compton said Monday, however, that Stafford made his second request, with slightly larger lots that in his first one, before the new rules were adopted. The new rules take effect with requests for January’s commission meeting, Compton said.
Councilman Kent Schexnaydre, who pointed out Nov. 6 that the council has been looking at addressing family partitions for six years, warned the parish would have to be vigilant for other loopholes.
“Sometimes we think we pass things, and somebody finds a way around it, so we’ll continue and review and make sure that the people in Ascension Parish has an opportunity to donate lands to their family members and continue to live here and keep them close,” Schexnaydre said.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter @NewsieDave.