UPDATE: The Port Allen City Council approved a motion to proceed with the annexation process at the Wednesday, Sept. 12 regular meeting. It was not a formal motion to annex the land, but a motion to proceed with the process.
At the Thursday, Sept. 13 Parish Council meeting, Councilman Chris “Fish” Kershaw told his fellow councilmembers he is disappointed the project described by developers at the Port Allen City Council meeting was not presented to the Parish Council.
“Their project as they described it at port Allen was much different than what they described to us, way different,” Kershaw said. “In fact, I would find it extremely hard for us to turn down the project that they described in Port Allen.”
Councilmembers Phil Porto, Barry Hugghins and Gary Spillman expressed support for the 70-foot-lot development Kershaw described. Councilmembers Porto, Hugghins and Spillman voted to deny the rezoning request made by Nolan-McKay’s mostly 50-foot-lot development presented to them last month.
“In my mind, if they would have brought that project to us they would already be building houses,” Kershaw said.
When asked whether the developers would consider submitting another rezoning request to the Parish Council, Parish President Riley “PeeWee” Berthelot said they may be gun-shy from being denied twice before.
Councilman Hugghins suggested repealing the section of the Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinance on the acceptable percentage of 50-foot lots in a development.
“It’s not fair to have something on our books that we’re not going to approve somebody for,” Hugghins said.
Developers requested the Port Allen City Council begin to consider annexing more than 200 acres west of the city limits on Court Street after being denied rezoning requests by the Parish Council twice.
Nearly a year ago, developer Dennis Carltin and engineer Jim Tanner with Nolan-McKay Developers went before the West Baton Rouge Planning and Zoning Commission and Parish Council determined to turn half of a vacant, 200-acre agricultural lot into a 600-plot single-family residential development. The Council denied the rezoning request.
After the council made changes to the planned unit development (PUD) ordinance, the developers changed their plans and approached the Planning and Zoning Commission and Parish Council again last month. The Council denied that rezoning request due to the small lot sizes.
Tanner and Carltin spoke to the community development committee on Wednesday, Sept. 5 hopeful to annex and develop about half of the property as their initial claim intended. Front portions of the land “[aren’t] ideal for residential development,” and the small strip would be set aside for commercial use such as professional offices, medical offices or a daycare center, Carltin offered.
The mayor, council members, Community Development Director Rose Roche’ and Chief Administrative Officer Adrian Genre addressed several issues, the primary one being access to the property.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) requires improvements to Court Street at the developer’s expense, Carltin said. He emphasized that their traffic studies are based on DOTD numbers that show LA-1 and LA-415 currently operate at a 50 percent capacity.
Councilman Hugh Riviere said he does not trust DOTD’s study as one who lives near the “nightmarish” LA-1 traffic.
Councilman Brandon Brown noted the state’s upcoming improvements to traffic, then spoke of his real estate clients who are upset not to find particular properties inside the city that the residential development could fulfill.
“I’m not against growth, and it would probably be in our best interest to annex that piece property,” Riviere said. “That way we would have some control.”
Councilman Brown agreed with Carltin that the increase in population would potentially benefit the school system.
As for the water system, Riviere said he believes the water pressure would manage the population increase.
The discussion served as an informal talking point for developers to begin working in the direction of a formal proposal to the council.
“We have to work together to make this work for the city,” Tanner said.
The Parish Council denied the rezoning request by Nolan-McKay Developers in a 5-3 vote from which Council member Naomi Fair abstained.
Councilman Phil Porto, who openly opposed the development because of the small lot sizes, said the best possible use for the property is residential use.
Nolan-McKay Developers have owned the property for more than a decade waiting for “right market conditions.” They believe that time is now, they told the Parish Council.
Developers estimated the project would take between 10 and 15 years to reach completion.