Council approves construction of satellite
library in Erwinville
The council voted to allow the West Baton Rouge Library Committee to spend $1.4 million on a new satellite facility in Erwinville. The funds will come from the Library Board’s savings, which have been accumulating for years.
The proposed addition was included in the council’s budget for 2021. Councilman Caleb Kleinpeter resisted the decision, saying the funds would be better spent on a new media center. Kleinpeter motioned to accept the budget without the library office, though no other council member seconded.
The WBR Parish School Board offered the library a plot of land in Erwinville. The land is directly adjacent to the newly constructed Caneview K-8 School.
The Library Board has been saving money for years to construct new facilities and has been waiting for the opportunity to present itself.
“We got very good returns on (investments), so the money built up.” Library Board President Joanne Bourgeois said. “Instead of just letting it sit there, we now have someone who can handle the establishment of a branch, and we have it in an area where people need to be served.”
A number of members of the Library Board were present to defend the expansion, including Bourgeois, Board Vice President Scarlett Callicoatte, and Board Secretary and Library Director Tammie Martin.
Councilman Craig “Moonie” Bergeron submitted a motion of approval of the budget as is, which was seconded by Councilman Kenneth Gordon. Councilman Kleinpeter cast the lone dissenting vote against the satellite facility.
Moratorium passed on solar panel construction
The Parish Council approved a resolution initiating a 60-day moratorium on the construction of additional solar panels in the parish. The topic was introduced after parish residents voiced their displeasure with the appearance of a recently constructed solar farm on Rosedale Road.
The moratorium was enacted simultaneously with the introduction of an ordinance that would require special use permits for the construction of more solar projects. A public hearing will be held on the ordinance at the Jan. 14 meeting.
The council made it clear that the moratorium was in place strictly to provide time to discuss whether or not special use permits should be required for the construction of additional solar panels in the parish.
If the ordinance passes, the council will evaluate further solar construction projects on a case-by-case basis and citizens will have to go to a hearing in front of the council in order to acquire a permit.
The council continued its deliberations on the specific definition of “mass meetings” in regards to parish law. The definition became a subject of contention after hundreds of people gathered for a “trail ride” event in Erwinville in October.
The “mass meetings” ordinance establishes a requirement for event organizers to obtain a permit for events with an expected attendance of more than 2,500 people.
Recently, the Parish Council has taken a closer look at what constitutes mass meetings or gatherings. In October, the council passed an emergency amendment to the ordinance lowering that attendance threshold to 200 people.
The council included a list of exceptions in the ordinance, which allows gatherings in churches and community centers and some sporting events to circumvent the permitting process.
The council voted to approve the current ordinance, with plans to amend the definition further as needed in the future.
Cell tower standards
Parish Council approved a set of standards for cell towers, which municipalities are expected to adopt as well. The towers, proposed by AT&T, will boost the signal strength of devices using internet in their area. AT&T has proposed building three towers in the unincorporated areas of the parish, as well as others in Brusly, Addis and Port Allen.
Deliberations centered on the height of the towers, which federal law establishes a maximum height of 50 feet but no minimum height. AT&T has made commitments to keep the towers a reasonable height and match their appearances to surrounding aesthetics.
The council voted to approve the ordinance after making some changes on the floor regarding the appearance and height of the towers.