Members of Ascension Parish’s Strategic Planning Committee considered changing road requirements during the meeting held June 11.
The committee discussed requiring road sizes to increase from 18 to 20 feet. The change was touted as a safety measure, as it would give school buses enough space to pass each other.
Committee Chair Chase Melancon said he has seen the need for such a move as bus traffic is routinely heavy on school days. An increase would allow more clearance for buses entering and exiting subdivisions.
Committee member Corey Orgeron asked about a study on the matter.
“Is it really 18? Could it be 16? Should it be 24? We don’t know,” he said.
The parish is falling “behind the eight ball” because the research has not been done in advance, Orgeron added.
“We wait until the back end to say ‘Oh my goodness, we messed up,” he said.
The council member then called out “certain individuals,” though he did not mention any specific names.
“All I know is that certain individuals who will personally benefit from limiting the size of subdivisions in this parish are pushing this issue. We have certain individuals in this parish who own smaller tracts of land who are looking forward to eliminating larger subdivisions so that now their property becomes the only game in town,” Orgeron said.
Committee member Joel Robert disagreed with Orgeron’s statement about property owners.
“This is the best time it has been in my lifetime to be any type of small property owner. You can sell and flip your property like that,” Robert said as he snapped his fingers.
Robert also suggested the possibility of adding more sidewalks.
A map was presented showing numerous roads throughout the parish that currently measure less than 20 feet.
After seeing the map and hearing the comments, committee member John Cagnolatti suggested bringing in experts on the matter.
“Let them give their testimony to what they think is right. I’d like to see this put down the road a little bit until we get more information,” Cagnolatti said.
Ricky Compton, who works as an assistant in the administration, told the committee the 20-foot requirement “was not arbitrary.” It was based on consulting with the Ascension Parish School Board and actually measuring buses.
"Whatever data you want us to collect, please specify. We’ll go get it, and bring it back to you. But, trust me, 20 feet is not arbitrary," Compton said.
Melancon said he is in favor of the 20-foot rule.
“We can’t undo what’s been done for decades, but we can improve the future. We can have better expectations than what we’ve had from the past 10 to 20 years on development,” Melancon said.
Parish President Clint Cointment said he thought 20 feet would be the minimum he would feel comfortable requiring.
“This was, in my opinion, the minimum of safety requirements. Minimum. Never do I ever feel when looking at regulations do I put a dollar amount on someone making a profit in Ascension Parish versus the safety of our citizens and our kids. It’s safety first. And that’s what I’ve been elected to do,” Cointment said.
Robert made a motion to move the matter to the full council. The motion failed due to a lack of a second, and the committee moved on with the agenda.