ST. FRANCISVILLE — Almost a year after imposing a moratorium that shut down most residential development, West Feliciana Parish officials and residents now have new proposals for regulating the parish’s growth.
At the request of parish President Kenny Havard, the Parish Council imposed a moratorium last August on the development of large residential developments, citing the need to strengthen the parish’s land development regulations.
The moratorium did not apply to developments of up to four lots of at least an acre each or to land divisions in commercial, manufacturing and special use zoning districts.
“The reason for the moratorium was so we could get to this point: where we could introduce ordinances (and) our rural development plan,” Havard told about 30 people attending brief, back-to-back special council and Planning and Zoning Commission meetings Thursday.
In a five-minute session, the commission set a 5:30 p.m. Aug. 2 public hearing on a proposed master plan, called the “West Feliciana Parish Rural Development Plan 2021.”
The council followed by introducing ordinances to repeal and replace the parish’s zoning, “green law” and land subdivision ordinances, as well as introduce a new ordinance that imposes “impact fees” on land developers.
The council set 5:30 p.m. Aug. 9 public hearings on the four proposed ordinances.
“The purpose of the moratorium was that we could pump the brakes, stop and get us a document in place that we thought we could move forward for the betterment of West Feliciana Parish,” Havard told the audience.
He said the commission and the council could adopt the documents immediately after the public hearings, or the members could make changes after the public discusses them.
Havard called the proposals “living, breathing documents” until the two bodies feel they are ready for final adoption.
“I want your input. I need your input and it’s important that we do get your input,” Havard said.
The several hundred pages of the proposed ordinances are available for public inspection on the Parish Council page of the parish government’s website, www.wfparish.org.
West Feliciana Parish was the first parish in the area to impose a moratorium on large-scale residential developments, with leaders saying they wanted to get ahead of a growth curve they believed was coming. The town of St. Francisville has its own moratorium because of concerns about the town’s sewer system.
In supporting the halt to new developments, former parish Police Juror John King said last year the belief that West Feliciana needs more people and rooftops to become financially stable is mistaken.
He said the examples of Livingston and Ascension parishes prove his point.
Havard said Thursday that the focus of the new master plan, or rural development plan, together with the zoning, subdivision and green law ordinances is “keeping West Feliciana primarily rural.”
“That’s why people come to live here,” he said.
The plans are designed to require smart, planned growth while avoiding traffic problems and over-taxed water, gas and sewerage systems.
“We want to learn from other area’s mistakes. That’s what this is all about,” he added.
A proposed impact fee ordinance would require developers to pay their "fair share" of the cost of public facilities that serve new developments, the document says.
The amount of fees will be calculated on the gross square footage of non-residential developments, the number of dwellings in a subdivision, the type and density of the development, the traffic each generates and other methodologies.
The parish currently does not charge impact fees for new developments.
The proposed zoning ordinance has eight residential districts but adds a residential classification for zero-lot-line housing and deletes a classification for multi-story residential developments.
The new ordinance would increase the number of commercial districts from four to six, retain the light- and heavy-industrial zones and increase the number of special purpose districts from three to seven, including three allowing alcoholic beverage sales, a recreational vehicle district and a district for “adult businesses.”
The green law regulations are designed to preserve the character of an area by several methods, including buffer zones or screens, landscaping to reduce the effects of wind and air turbulence and to preserve underground water reservoirs.
Havard said the new subdivision regulations were developed in his office from laws on the books in Ascension, East Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee parishes, as well as from out-of-state jurisdictions.
The thrust of the land division measures will be to require drainage, traffic and other studies to major subdivisions at the developers’ expense. The parish also does not intend to take over sewage treatment plants that developers build.
“We’re not taxing the people to pay for subdivisions,” he said.
As presently written, the new ordinance will require at least one-acre lots in subdivisions.
“I don’t know how long that will last. Some people want them to be more than an acre,” he said.