Kenny Havard.jpg (copy)

Kenny Havard

ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish Council imposed a moratorium on the development of large residential developments Wednesday, citing the need to strengthen the parish’s land development regulations.

Councilmen Justin Metz, John C. Thompson and Kevin Dreher voted in favor of the moratorium, which was supported by Parish President Kenny Havard and most of nine people who commented during a public hearing.

Councilman Melvin Young voted against the moratorium ordinance, saying it needed a time limit for the ordinance changes to occur “so we don’t slow things down.”

“I think our intent is to slow things down,” Dreher replied, before offering several amendments to the ordinance first introduced Aug. 10.

Councilman Clay Pinson was absent.

As amended, the ordinance does not apply to “minor subdivisions” of up to four lots that are at least an acre each.

The moratorium does not apply to property divisions in four commercial, two manufacturing, two special use and professional zoning districts.

In addition to halting development of major residential subdivisions, the moratorium applies to any Planned Unit Development that includes a residential component in the concept plan.

Another of Dreher’s amendments puts the moratorium in place for developments already in the pipeline, as long as the parish has not approved its construction plans.

Two people sent written comments supporting the moratorium before the meeting, including for former parish Councilman John King, who said the belief that West Feliciana “needs more people and rooftops” to become financially stable is incorrect.

King said Ascension and Livingston parishes demonstrate that people and rooftops do not solve financial problems.

Havard, in urging the moratorium’s approval, said it provides the parish with the ability to “get ahead of the curve of growth we know is coming.”

“Our infrastructure is not there for high-density subdivisions,” Havard said, noting that sewage treatment is becoming a problem because developers put in treatment plants and do not maintain them.

Havard said he is not asking parish residents to raise taxes to support the parish government, but he said raising taxes will be necessary if the parish allows the development of numerous high-density residential areas.

“We need to be rural by design,” Havard said, adding that West Feliciana’s rural nature has helped lower the number of COVID-19 cases caused by the coronavirus.

Planning and Zoning Commission member Alan Kirkpatrick said he agreed with the sentiments expressed by other speakers about keeping the parish’s rural ambiance, but he said a “slam-dunk stop” to development “sends the wrong signal.”

He suggested the council stiffen its existing regulations and enforce them to get control of development.

He said two years ago, the commission pushed for the council to work on bringing land development ordinances up to date, but, except for carving out a zoning classification for recreational vehicle parks, the effort went nowhere.

Retired Judge George H. Ware Jr. reminded the council that bad developments come back to bite the politicians who allowed them.

“You better make the ordinances super-tight,” Ware said.