Is Planning Commission in the bag for developers? Tonight’s Oak Lake request is litmus test

Is Ascension’s Planning Commission (at least a majority of the seven-member body) irretrievably, irredeemably, unabashedly in the bag for subdivision developers?  Tonight’s meeting agenda includes a litmus test.

A) Oak Lake 2nd and 3rd Filings: The subject property is located on the west side of LA Hwy 44 south of I-10 in Council District 2 and is zoned Medium Intensity (RM). The application is on behalf D.R. Horton-Gulf Coast, Inc. by Quality Engineering & Surveying, LLC.

VARIANCE REQUEST: An original condition of approval for the Preliminary Plat in December of 2015 was that, prior to approval of the final plat for Phase 2, either the traffic circle or the required turn lane would be complete and operational. The applicant would have to be granted a variance from Section 17- 408.C of the Subdivision Regulations to gain any Final Plat approval prior to the condition(s) being met.

Oak Lake is a subdivision being built just south of Gonzales’ city limits, directly across from another 950-lot development inside the city; Conway.

Coincidentally, Thursday’s Parish Council meeting agenda includes a recommendation from Strategic Planning to do away with plat approvals with such conditions.  It also includes an Executive Session item concerning a “Demand Letter” from the developer of Oak Lake.

Concessions were granted by the Planning Commission when it approved Oak Lake’s final plat on January 10, 2018.  The preliminary plat approval occurred on December 9, 2015 with a plethora of conditions/contingencies.  From the meeting minutes:

Commission Action:  Moved by Mr. Matthew Pryor, seconded by Mr. Morrie Bishop and unanimously adopted, to approve this preliminary plat contingent on a) a round-about be already constructed or a turn lane be required by the time the second phase, final plat is proposed; b) the drainage impact study being approved by Engineering.

When Oak Lake’s Phase I final plat came before the commission on January 10, 2018 alternative deals had been brokered, but the developer had failed to live up to its end of the bargain.  So egregious was the failure that none other than Commissioner Pryor, friend to developers everywhere, could not stomach it.  The minutes of the January 10, 2018 meeting include:

“Chairman Pryor expressed it came to his attention and is somewhat disconcerting that part of this development was a dedication of land to the public right-of-way for the expansion of Highway 44, which the dedication did appear on the preliminary plat but is not on the final plat.  Mr. Pryor stated, to his knowledge, the dedication has not yet taken place and feels that needs to happen before finalizing this plat.”

So the Planning Commission gave Oak Lake a 90-day extension to do what it had agreed to do for the preceding two years and two months.  Which brings us up to speed and the variance being requested tonight.

If they acquiesce there is no doubt, and no argument to be made otherwise.  The commission is irretrievably, irredeemably, unabashedly in the bag for subdivision developers?

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