101419 St. George precinct vote map

While there may be a short path to organization of a proposed city of St. George, it may also be longer than some expect. But whether short or long, it does not make sense to say that businesses should put off long-standing applications for investments in the proposed new city.

Voters on Oct. 12 approved the organization of a new city in the southern neighborhoods of Baton Rouge. That vote was important. It starts a process that will ultimately, unless courts interfere, result in a new city government.

But it is not practical to stop on a dime every decision facing the city-parish government, particularly in the area of planning and zoning.

A homeowners’ association near Siegen Lane asked city-parish planners to delay action on zoning decisions located inside the boundaries of St. George, allowing the new city when it is up and running to have its say.

The key word is “when,” and that is not yet. The Parish Attorney’s Office correctly pointed out that the new city is not created. If regular order is followed — again, meaning not enjoined by any potential lawsuits — it will be some time before even an interim mayor and council is appointed.

An election for a regular city leadership will probably come before interim leaders can realistically stand up a separate process for planning and zoning.

In the case of the Audubon Terrace/Morning Glen homeowners association, stalling projects until a new board is established serves their purposes.

The city-parish partially greenlighted plans this year to rezone lots for office buildings despite worries among residents that their neighborhood's narrow roads wouldn't be able to handle the additional traffic. Only one street connects the neighborhood to Siegen Lane.

While it is not difficult to understand the neighborhoods’ concern, there is an established city-parish process for making such decisions. Setting aside the day-to-day machinery of government is not in the interests of businesses, important to the economic vitality of the old city and the new city.

For the homeowners, Bill Gibson told The Advocate that he did not seek a blanket moratorium on city-parish decisions during this interim period. That is sensible, but the fact is that a much longer process than 60 or 90 days, the term Gibson suggested, will be needed to get a new government established.

Planning and zoning is a particularly sensitive issue in a suburban community, a classification defining St. George. But it’s also a complex matter to establish. We think that interim leaders would be well-advised to be cautious and careful in establishing new zoning and planning procedures.

However long it takes, though, Gibson’s request is a signal that city-parish agencies ought to be sensitive to concerns of neighborhoods in the region during an interim period of whatever length. City-parish government has a positive obligation to assist its citizens, even when “BRexit” is in the planning stages.