ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish Council declined Monday to adopt a sunset date for a moratorium on large-scale residential developments in the parish.
Parish President Kenny Havard called for the moratorium in August, saying work needs to be done on the parish’s subdivision ordinances to get ahead of expected residential growth in the next few years.
Councilman Melvin Young, who voted against the moratorium because he said it lacks an expiration date, pushed for a time limit Monday, saying land development moratoriums typically have limits of three, six or nine months, depending on the severity of the issues affecting development.
Havard said the parish does not have adequate roads, sewer treatment or water supply for an anticipated growth spurt. The parish also needs updated ordinances to address local infrastructure needs.
With several residents requesting permission to comment on the item, Council President John C. Thompson asked for an attorney’s opinion on whether state law requires public comment, since the council did not intend to take action on a time limit Monday night.
Parish attorney Dannie Garrett said state law does not require public comment during the discussion, although the council could grant permission to allow members of the audience to speak.
The council then voted to hear from four people who submitted forms requesting to speak.
Developer Lula London said the moratorium was “pushed down the public’s throat without any comment” on Aug. 26.
“We will not sit idly by and let the parish government throw something at us and say, ‘take it or leave it.’ This is just outrageous,” London said.
George Turner, of Ethel, asked the council to exempt his proposed development from the moratorium, saying he had been working with the parish to develop affordable housing with assistance from state and federal housing officials.
Turner warned that the council had acted against a protected class of people — the poor, elderly and disadvantaged — in denying his planned unit development.
Havard and Garrett denied that the moratorium discriminated against any group, saying it applied across the board to all developers.
Havard also questioned whether London’s New Jerusalem Estates could be called affordable housing, saying he has seen three homes with asking prices of more than $300,000 each.
“We cannot overstress our infrastructure,” Havard said, pointing to recent studies on the needs for the parish water system and its roads.
Havard asked for time to put together a program to overhaul the parish’s ordinances, saying he will work with the Planning and Zoning Commission to set goals for completing changes to the laws.
Thompson later refused Turner’s request to offer a rebuttal to Havard’s comments, saying “we want to keep the meetings in order” without “back and forth.”
On another matter, Havard said parish crews had cleared fallen trees from all parish roads by about 4 p.m. Saturday, following Hurricane Delta’s push through Louisiana late Friday.
He said widespread power outages remained Monday, but improvements had been made since Saturday morning.
Havard said the parish will activate a contract with a debris removal company on Tuesday, with the hope of getting federal funds to remove storm debris.