Industrial rezoning request in St. Gabriel could be pushed back a month after committee meeting cancelled _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TERRY JONES -- Pictured is the St. Gabriel property whose owners are seeking a rezoning from residential to commercial.

The first public meeting on a controversial rezoning request was canceled after the city’s Planning and Zoning Committee failed to establish the quorum needed to conduct the meeting Wednesday night.

The cancellation means the timeline of a family’s request to have approximately 3,000 acres of undeveloped land rezoned from residential to heavy industrial will likely get pushed back a month — unless the City Council happens to entertain a vote on the measure at its meeting Thursday.

“It’ll be on the agenda, but I doubt they’ll take it up,” said Lloyd Snowten, the city’s director of public services. “Basically, if the council did vote on it, they would be disrespecting” the Planning and Zoning Committee.

Snowten had to inform the more than 100 people who packed the council chambers Wednesday that meeting had to be canceled after one of the committee members said she had to leave just minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin. Snowten said the committee member had a family emergency.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Committee needed four members to establish a quorum.

Some of the people who showed up accused the city of orchestrating the meeting’s cancellation, given the opposition the request has stirred up from folks who fear rezoning the land would serve as an invitation for a large industrial facility to set up shop close to their homes.

Outside of City Hall, Steven Redman said he plans to attend the meeting Thursday “to make sure they don’t try to pull any shenanigans.”

Redman lives about a mile from the site in one of several upscale subdivisions in the vicinity.

The tract of land up for rezoning brushes up against the Iberville Parish line and is across the street from two University Club subdivisions located in both St. Gabriel and East Baton Rouge Parish.

Snowten made it clear Wednesday night that anyone attending the council’s meeting Thursday could be asked to show identification proving they live within the city limits, given the heavy attendance for the canceled zoning meeting.

“It’s perfectly legitimate to limit the meeting to the residents of the city,” said Tyrone Williams, one of the many residents opposed to the rezoning request. Williams lives just outside the city limits in an unincorporated area of Iberville Parish.

Williams, and many of the attendees, asked city officials to hold the next meeting at a bigger venue to accommodate the crowd the item is attracting.

“It’s not to anyone’s benefit to hold the meeting here,” Williams said, referring to the council’s chamber room.

Snowten made no promises that the Thursday meeting venue would be changed. The City Council is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

The next Planning and Zoning meeting is scheduled at 6 p.m. Nov. 11, also at City Hall.

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.