It’s not “the media” that has “misquoted/misconstrued” the AG’s Opinion Mr. Chairman

Chairman Matt Pryor (file photo)

Not content to leave well enough alone Matt Pryor, Chairman of Ascension’s Planning and Zoning Commission, continues to deflect criticism by blaming “the media” and and the Parish Council. Setting the stage for his tie-breaking vote to execute a recent Contract Agreement between Crawfish Aquatics and the Zoning Commission Pryor preempted discussion of the agenda item on July 12.  Crawfish Aquatics had applied for a Small Planned Unit Development, or SPUD, which was denied in February.  Pryor’s comment is reproduced below (with earlier pronouncements by the Chairman interjected in bold):

“We hear the term public health, safety, and welfare.  The public health, safety, and welfare is something that is legislated through our laws.  Our freedoms get restricted because of public health, safety, and welfare.  On basic levels that’s what criminal laws are.  We can’t do certain things because of public health safety, and welfare.

With that in mind the Parish Council has set traffic studies which this contract agreement must comply with.

In my opinion the SPUD that came up before us several months ago, I think, was not very wisely rejected by this commission.  The member who made the motion said ‘I’m not gonna be here next month so I’m going to move to deny it.’  That was a greater restriction on the property than what’s on there now.  There’s no legal basis to deny this.

Several times in the past, particularly in the planning side of what we do, as to the extent by which this commission can deny something that is legally created, meets all the legal requirements, and there is discretion for us to do that.

In December 2015 Pryor said: “Our limited ability, however, is to approve these subdivisions as proposed if they meet the planning code that our parish council lays out.  And if they do, then we really don’t have a choice but to go along with them and to approve them; Even though we know there’s going to be problems down the road as both of these subdivisions, I think, will create.”

We have an Attorney General’s opinion.  And I know this Attorney General’s opinion has been batted about in the media.  To some extent it’s been misquoted; it’s been misconstrued.

If you read the whole thing, what the Attorney General has said is you do have the authority.  However, any denial of an otherwise legally created development that meets all of the legal standards is going to be met with a strict scrutiny review by the courts.  Which means that there has to be an overriding compelling state interest.  And whatever action we take against the right to use land has to be specifically addressed and limited to that state interest.

In May of 2016 Pryor said of the just-released AG’s Opinion #16-0011: “This commission has, for at least as long as I’ve been on it which is more than two years, acted appropriately and applied the correct standards.  (When a subdivision meets all legal requirements) “it is presumptively valid under the law and we must, absent extraordinary circumstances, approve it.”

If the traffic impact and the remediation required is set by the Parish Council, if the traffic impact study requirements are inadequate, that is something that must be addressed by the Council.  We are bound to that.  It’s not enough to come in and say ‘well, the Traffic Impact Study requirements are, they’re woefully inadequate.  Okay.  Maybe it’s true.  Take that up with your councilman.

If you think Hwy 73 needs more infrastructure I would probably agree with you.  Take it up to the Parish Council; take it up to our state legislators.  Go call the governor who, according to The Advocate, vetoed five road bills for our parish this year.

It’s not enough for us, however, to override the Council under that strict scrutiny review.  Because that is a legislative function of the legislative body in this parish.  What we have to look at is the law and following the law as set forth by the Council.  If these contract agreements meet the law, which my initial review indicates that they do, then our hands are tied to approve those unless there is some evidence that the Traffic Impact Study they might do, or they are going to do, or they already have done are bad; or that the drainage impact study is bad, it’s not worth what the engineering said.

But if it meets the legal standards, then that’s what we’re bound to.

On February 10, 2016 Pryor voted to deny Brookstone subdivision saying: “Our laws are designed specifically so that you can’t use your property, or any other part of your person or things, to hurt or damage somebody else.  I’m going to, reluctantly, vote to deny this preliminary plat until these drainage issues can get worked out and submitted back to the Planning Commission.”

Pryor joined the majority in denying Brookstone even though the Planning Staff informed that all parish code’s had been met.  The vote came one month after the Commission’s own legal counsel, Cody Martin, instructed the body in January of 2016:  “As long as you cite the reasons why you’re denying it; general health, safety and welfare; I think you would be okay.”

So we ask:

Who is misquoting and misconstruing the Attorney General’s Opinion?