Ascension Parish Council approves Delaune Estates, president to veto

Michael Tortorich

The Ascension Parish Council emerged from executive session after nearly a half hour April 15 to approve the preliminary plat of the Delaune Estates subdivision.

Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment stated he would veto the council’s decision to approve the preliminary plat, minus ten lots, of the Delaune Estates subdivision. Cointment is shown during a meeting at the Donaldsonville courthouse late last year.

The vote for the subdivision planned for the Prairieville area was 6-5, which Parish President Clint Cointment announced the following day that he would veto. 

Council members voting to approve were: Alvin “Coach” Thomas, Corey Orgeron, Dempsey Lambert, Teri James Casso, Aaron Lawler, and John Cagnolatti.

Orgeron included a motion to reduce the total lots of the subdivision by ten. Previously known as Antebellum Pointe, the plan had included 237 lots.

The council’s vote during the meeting in Gonzales was to settle a September 2020 lawsuit filed by the property owners of the 86-acre pastureland located off of Hwy. 73 at White Road. About a mile down from Interstate 10, the property is across from St. John Catholic Church in a highly traveled area of the parish.

Cointment has voiced his opposition to the subdivision since its March 2020 denial at the planning and zoning stage. He also stated he was against it when the council, acting as the board of appeals, took up the matter in late July 2020.

Several parish residents voiced their concerns during the public-comment portion of the meeting. Many pointed out the already strained infrastructure in the area.

The July 2020 vote to overturn the denial with conditions was 6-4. Thomas, Orgeron, Lambert, Casso, Cagnolatti, and Travis Turner voted yes. Joel Robert was absent due to a pre-planned vacation.

Lawler stated why he changed his vote through a statement on his Facebook page.

“The first time I voted no because the traffic study confirmed that the proposed development did not meet our requirements,” Lawler wrote. “As a fellow councilman said during the first hearing ‘in a few months when school opens back up and this third lane on I-10 is up we do a TIA (traffic impact study) and if these numbers are accurate (meaning a TIA that meets our requirements) at that point if anybody has a concern at the point they just don’t want anyone living by them.’”

He added that he had expected the president to veto, which would lead to the lawsuit being removed to federal court.

“The process in Federal Court is fast, but costly. The parish will spend valuable dollars, likely over ($100,000) defending this,” Lawler stated.

He ended by calling out the “insults, allegations of bribery, corruption and awful behavior” coming from opponents of the subdivision. 

“Many of you forget that we on the council are your neighbors and friends,” he said. “We go to the same stores, see each other at church and school, drive the same roads, watch our kids at the same parks.”

Cointment released a statement on the morning of April 16 to announce his decision to veto.

“I do not take the veto power lightly and I will not exercise it unless necessary to ensure the public interest. This is one of those instances,” he stated.

Cointment said his decision was not easy considering the property rights of the Delaune family and the will of the six council members.

“I bear the Delaunes no ill-will and I do not wish to alienate council members as we attempt to forge a productive working relationship. But I was elected to represent all citizens in our great parish; and protect their health, safety, and welfare,” he stated.

Cointment went on to call the parish’s Unified Land Development Code a “detailed and comprehensive document” that is difficult to master.

“Every requirement, procedural and substantive, is included for valid reasons. Overriding those requirements to settle a lawsuit renders the Planning Commission irrelevant and its deliberations and decisions meaningless,” he said.

The president pointed out the owners are entitled by the Development Code to resubmit its preliminary plat to the commission since 12 months have elapsed since the denial.