AMITE — A set of regulations aimed at addressing rapid development in a flood-prone part of Tangipahoa Parish was approved by the council Wednesday with enthusiasm from parish officials.
“We’ve probably leaped forward 20 years,” said Councilman Carlo Bruno, of Independence. "This is not going to be the end-all to what we’ve got to do, but it’s a start."
But several residents who spoke during a public hearing said the changes do not go far enough to address their concerns about flooding, traffic and inadequate schools in the Ponchatoula, Bedico and Robert areas.
The Tangipahoa Parish Council voted 7-0 in favor of the rules. Councilmen Lionel Wells and James Bailey were absent from the meeting.
The vote puts an end to a four-month moratorium the council placed on planning commission approvals for large residential subdivisions.
The new rules come in addition to changes to the drainage requirements made in the wake of the March and August 2016 floods, both of which affected southern Tangipahoa Parish.
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John Dardis, a consultant for the parish who helped draft the regulations, said the approved ordinance is unique and represents a middle ground between subdivision developers and parish officials concerned about flooding issues.
“I think what we have here is a compromise among all of these competing interests," he said.
The new regulations put significant restrictions on how subdivision developers can use designated wetlands and floodways on their property, Dardis said.
Only a small percentage of wetlands can be mitigated and used, he said. And those areas must be dedicated to infrastructure, such as roads and drainage canals and cannot be developed with houses.
In exchange for setting aside a given number of acres of wetlands, the new rules allow developers to build smaller lots on an equivalent amount of land elsewhere on the property.
The ordinances also call for increased green space requirements, traffic studies, land clearing permits and use of best management practices for drainage in subdivisions of more than 20 acres or 50 lots.
In the past couple years, the parish also has established enhanced drainage requirements for residential subdivisions.
New subdivisions must now retain rain from a 100-year storm, instead of a 10-year storm. And homes must now be built 1 foot above the base flood elevation required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"This is the beginning of the framework," Parish President Robby Miller said. "We know there is more to be done, and we’ll continue to do that.”
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Several residents of the Ponchatoula area came to speak at the hearing Wednesday evening.
Amy Brennan, of Ponchatoula, commented that the rules do not address the school overcrowding in her area.
"If you’re going to move that many families and that many houses in there, I want to know what you’ll do for my children and my community," she said.
Don Marshall, constable for the Bedico area, said he wants to see regulations that have developers set aside land for commercial and retail development. He has said there is little to buy in the area, and people spend their sales tax dollars in St. Tammany Parish.
Kim Coates, of Ponchatoula, asked the council to hold off voting until she could have some environmentalists review the plans and talk to the council.
But the council decided they had taken enough input already.
"I think we’ve had a good amount of public input, and again, this is a start," said David Vial, a council member from Hammond. "I do think it is a step in the right direction, and the alternative is to stay where we are."