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Ascension Parish property owners file lawsuit over denied subdivision plan

Michael Tortorich

Owners of sprawling pasture land in Prairieville have taken legal action after the Ascension Parish Planning Commission and the Parish Council denied a proposed 237-lot subdivision proposal.

The proposed Delaune Estates subdivision was denied by the Planning Commission in March and the Board of Appeals in July. The 86 acres of land owned by the Delaune family is located west of Hwy. 73 near White Road.

Formerly referred to as Antebellum Pointe, the plan went before the Planning Commission in March, and was denied. During the July 27 Board of Appeals meeting, the 6-4 vote fell short of the eight votes needed for a two-thirds supermajority to overturn the March denial.

The proposed project’s name changed to Delaune Estates, and has been referred as such since the July meeting. 

In March, Parish President Clint Cointment wrote a letter to the Planning Commission expressing concerns about traffic along Hwy. 73 and sewer service. He recommended the project be denied.

The 86 acres of land, owned by members of the Delaune family, is located west of Hwy. 73 at White Road, just more than a mile from Interstate 10.

William “Bill” Delaune Jr. represented his family at the time, sharing some of the history of the property. He said the land has been in the Delaune family since the Great Depression era, when it served as a general store.

Also during the July meeting, council member Corey Orgeron warned the family would have a justifiable lawsuit if denied.

The meeting was contentious as several concerned citizens spoke during the public comment portion. Most took issue with the impact the subdivision would have on traffic, drainage, and sewer infrastructures.

Council member Joel Robert did not attend the July meeting, as he was on a pre-planned vacation. He had asked for a statement to be read during the meeting, but it was never introduced into the record.

In other matters concerning parish government:

-- During the Sept. 17 meeting, the parish council denied the small planned unit development (SPUD) known as The Lakes at Henderson Bayou.

The Planning and Zoning Commission previously voted 4-2 Sept. 9 to recommend the proposed two-story, 60-unit condominium near the Hwy. 42 and Hwy. 44 junction. 

A resident of the area, Joseph Rizzo, spoke during the public comment period at both meetings. He expressed concerns about drainage and the density of the 66,000 square footage of building space.

The applicant, Sura Family LLC, is registered to Baton Rouge psychiatrist Ashwin B. Sura.

After discussion, Robert made a motion to deny the recommendation. Aaron Lawler provided the second.

The council voted 8-3 in favor of denial. Voting no were: Orgeron, Alvin “Coach” Thomas, and John Cagnolatti.

-- Cointment presented Kentrell Himes, drainage supervisor, as the September employee of the month during the meeting.

Cointment presented a certificate of recognition to Himes for his attitude, work ethic, and abilities as demonstrated to supervisors and colleagues. Himes has worked for parish government since 2001.

The honor is chosen from a list of employees nominated by supervisors.

-- Chief Administrative Officer John Diez followed with a report on the parish’s response to Hurricane Sally, which ended up pushing more to the east of the state.

Homeland Security issued ten updates, four Everbridge notifications, and four Unified Command notifications. The communications department made 15 Facebook posts and released five press releases. Ascension 21 also ran bulletins throughout the preparations period.

Diez stressed the importance of participation in the 2020 Census in order to get an accurate count of the parish’s population figures.

-- Parish government has continued negotiations with National Water Infrastructure Inc. over a cooperative endeavor agreement for east bank sewer system management.

A counter offer will be made by Sept. 25, parish officials said during the Sept. 17 meeting.

Environmental regulators have said sewage discharges into parish waterways has contributed to poor water quality.

Orgeron, who serves as Utilities Committee chair, said every time a deal gets close to completion, “the can gets kicked a little farther down the road.” He added that he wants a timetable in place.

Lawler said the delays have not been arbitrary, but have been “to get better terms for the people of Ascension Parish.”

“There is absolutely no intent to delay this by any party, by anybody involved,” Lawler said.

In agreeing with Orgeron in subsidizing some rates, Lawler said the money could be better used for roads, recreation, and drainage.

Orgeron’s resolution, which was spoken and made in writing, was: “Ascension Parish will place the sale of ACUD #2 assets on the March 20 ballot.”

The motion passed without further discussion or objection.

In a moment of merriment between agenda items, Council member Michael Mason joked with Orgeron about the “po-boy” meetings they were not invited to attend.

“Michael, we’re going to start having our own meetings,” Orgeron said to Mason.

“I promise, if we can get this done, I’ll buy y’all all a po-boy,” Casso replied.

She said the intent of the ad-hoc committee has not been to keep the council members or the public “in the dark” about the negotiation process.