Pettit: Show up, speak out on Planning Commission abolition!

Barking citizen watchdog, Jeff Pettit

Is there anything that frustrates the average Ascension Parish citizen more than the monthly meeting of our Planning and (sometimes) Zoning Commission?  Subdivision, after subdivision, after subdivision…approved by Planning without infrastructure (drainage, roads, schools, law enforcement, animal control, wastewater treatment, etc.) sufficient to meet existing residential needs.  And the problems continue to grow with every new rooftop.

You can do something about it tonight when the Home Rule Charter Revision Committee meets at 5:00.  Show up, speak out, and let’s push to abolish the Planning Commission.  We must unite to force elected Council members to approve or deny those new subdivision that infuriate so many of us.

Commissioners are not answerable to the voting public; only to the Parish Council which appoints them.  The Council, in turn, enjoys a buffer from public criticism since it is those commissioners who approve each subdivision.  Preliminary plat approval is final and not subject to Council action.

Appointments to the commission, recommended by the Council’s Personnel Committee, are predetermined.  In February of 2016 I was among 17 applicants interviewed by Personnel for six positions Planning seats.  Pelican Post’s owner/editor predicted the outcome a full week in advance, accurately listing the order in which applicants would be ranked by the Personnel Committee (Council members Benny Johnson, Oliver Joseph, Teri Casso, Travis Turner, and John Cagnolatti if memory serves).

When two of those eventual appointments deigned to exercise their own judgment, defying development (Edward Dudley and Douglas Foster voted to deny multiple subdivision preliminary plats in 2016), they were not reappointed on March 16, 2017.

The system is rigged, the fix is in for every new subdivision’s approval.

And your Council representative washes his/her hands of any responsibility because “it is the Planning Commission’s decision.”  And there is no length to which the Council/Planning Commission will not go to approve the next subdivision…

ABOLISH Planning Commission: The Oak Grove Townhouses debacle

It is high time for the Council to be held responsible, and answerable to the people they are supposed to represent.

State law does not require Ascension, or any other parish with or without Home Rule, to have a Planning Commission.  Louisiana Revised Statute 33:102 reads; “Every parish and every municipality…may create by ordinance a planning commission…”

On tonight’s Charter Revision Committee agenda is Section 4-18 of the Home Rule Charter.  It requires “The parish governing authority…(to) create by ordinance a planning commission with the powers and duties set forth in state law.”  Abolition of the Planning Commission is not without precedent in Ascension.  Back in 2011, when a nine-member commission actually resisted subdivision’s thought detrimental to existing residents that Council abolished the commission, only to reconfigure a smaller, easier for the Council to control, seven-member commission (several council members wanted to make it five).

Without a Planning Commission ultimate responsibility lies where it should, with the Council.  If you share my frustration, show up at tonight’s Charter Revision Committee meeting and speak in favor of eliminating Section 4-18’s Planning Commission requirement.

Jeff Pettit