Months after talk of a large subdivision slated for the French Settlement area began to appear on social media, the Livingston Parish Council on Thursday sent the proposal back to planning in a bid to subject the development to their new building guidelines.
While residents opposed to the 689-lot Valere subdivision packed the council chambers to voice their concerns, council members agreed to defer the proposal by sending it back to the parish planning commission.
“We can talk about it for days here, or we can just send it back,” said Council member Garry “Frog” Talbert. “If the public wants to talk, let the public talk.”
Under pressure from residents upset about traffic and flooding throughout the parish, the council recently approved a host of laws limiting the construction of new neighborhoods. Those efforts go hand-in-hand with the temporary development moratorium passed in May that has allowed council members a breather to workshop ordinances that will foster “responsible growth.”
Council member Randy Delatte, whose district encompasses the proposed subdivision, noted the council passed such laws to keep large subdivisions like Valere in check.
“The bottom line is we’ve done as much as we can do for y’all,” he said. “We’ve passed as many ordinances that we’ve agreed on to pass. Basically what we got now is going to be our best case.”
The subdivision, which is being developed by Ascension Properties Inc., is proposed for La. Hwy 444 and Jack Allen Road.
In March the French Settlement Board of Alderman passed a resolution opposing the proposed development — even before plans had been submitted to the parish.
The board’s concerns echoed those of local residents for various proposed projects over the last six months: the subdivision would increase flooding, worsen traffic problems and overwhelm schools with an influx of new students, among other fears.
French Settlement Mayor Haley Unbehagen said Thursday she is “frustrated and disappointed” that the subdivision has continued to move forward despite her local council’s resolution that the development would cause harm to the town.
“It’s a huge fear on my part as to the public safety issues this will cause, whether the growth occurs in one year or five years, the problems will still be prevalent,” she said.
Unbehagen said that traffic — especially cars speeding through school zones — stands to worsen.
Between January and May of this year the French Settlement Police Department issued over 100 school zone speeding violations, reportedly ranging from 45 mph to 67 mph.
“Those citations were issued to individuals who travel through town on a regular basis as their route to/from work, some who even reside in French Settlement,” the mayor said. “If you add 700 homes to the area, averaging 2 vehicles per home, we’re looking at 1,400 additional vehicles traveling through our school zone who aren’t going to be familiar with the area and will substantially increase the safety of our children, teachers and parents just in that localized area.”
Meanwhile, the temporary development moratorium is set to expire July 27. Although there was some discussion last meeting about lifting the moratorium during Thursday’s session, the item never appeared on the agenda. Parish President Layton Ricks said that unless the council takes action to extend the moratorium or cut it short, the order will end quietly in two weeks’ time.