The St. Tammany Parish Council will consider putting a six-month moratorium on new subdivisions in the Madisonville area, a measure that Councilman Mike Lorino says is needed to allow officials time to address traffic and safety issues on La. 22.
The moratorium, which was introduced at the council's Nov. 1 meeting, will be up for a vote next month.
The targeted area runs from the Tchefuncte River to the Tangipahoa Parish line and includes all portions south of La. 22 and half of the area north of the highway, Lorino said after the meeting.
Lorino, who represents the area, said the moratorium will allow for a study, which he described as a collaborative effort among the parish, the Regional Planning Commission and the state Department of Transportation and Development.
The study will look at projected growth in District 4, development of what Lorino called necessary infrastructure and population density in new residential developments.
"The study will evaluate population and density, opportunities for traffic management and modifications to existing infrastructure and the potential for new road construction and expansions," Lorino said, reading from a prepared statement.
He cited rapid growth in western St. Tammany in recent decades and its impact on traffic, particularly on La. 22. He described current congestion on the highway as a public safety issue and said time is needed to develop a plan and secure funding to improve the highway.
Tangipahoa Parish recently enacted a similar moratorium to deal with some of the same issues, he said.
"Unique to our parish, however, are the congestion issues related to the Tchefuncte Bridge openings during peak traffic hours," he said.
Beginning Nov. 26, the bridge will only open once per hour from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekdays and will not open at all from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays, Lorino told the Parish Council.
The Coast Guard is also evaluating the possibility of removing half-hour openings completely, he said, and he thanked the parish administration, the highway department, the legislative delegation, the Coast Guard and the 300 residents who made comments to the Coast Guard about the issue .
"There's too much traffic on Highway 22," Lorino said, pointing to development of 200- to 300-home subdivisions. "We have to take a break and see where we are, relieve traffic and make it safer."
The Parish Council also discussed giving a 2 percent raise to employees of the Public Works department, with Councilman Richard Tanner seeking an amendment to the 2019 budget that was up for a vote Thursday.
Advocates said the measure is needed for low-paid workers and since the department has its own funding source — a sales tax dedicated to road and drainage work — it wouldn't impact the parish's strapped general fund.
But others were concerned about limiting a raise to one department and about budget constraints.
The council voted to postpone the amendment and the vote on the budget until its Dec. 6 meeting. The Parish Council must vote on a budget by Dec. 31.
The Parish Council also rejected a rezoning sought by the owners of Bayou Haven Bed and Breakfast on Bayou Liberty Road that would have enabled the business to operate as an events venue, something that neighbors and opponents of the zoning change said they had already been doing in violation of their zoning and a deed restriction.