Ascension Parish residents voice support for 12-month development moratorium

Michael Tortorich

Several Ascension Parish residents spoke in favor of Parish President Clint Cointment’s proposed 12-month moratorium on development during the May 20 council meeting at the new courthouse in Gonzales.

During the first Ascension Parish Council meeting held at the new courthouse in Gonzales, several residents voiced their support for the year-long moratorium presented by the parish president.

Cointment presented his plan for a year-long pause after decades of growth adding strains on parish infrastructure. The president announced the plan in the midst of last week’s flooding.

“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,” Cointment said during the meeting.

According to an earlier statement from the president, the moratorium is necessary to give parish government time to consider all the aspects of the combined impact of additional development and increased frequency of severe weather events currently being experienced in the parish.

During the public-comment period, several individuals addressed the council. 

“The fear of our homes flooding will not go away,” one speaker said.

Two speakers, who said they are involved in the home-building industry, disagreed with the plan. 

Brandon Ivey, who serves as chair on the board of the Home Builders Association of Greater Baton Rouge, said moratorium “is a political word.”

“Y’all have plenty of other tools in your arsenal when you have areas that don’t have traffic capacity or flow. Y’all can turn down permits for specific subdivisions,” Ivey said.

He added that not all of the parish’s infrastructure woes should be blamed on development.

“Ditches needing to be cleaned out is not a developer’s fault. That’s lack of maintenance,” he said.

After an audience response, Chair Teri Casso banged the gavel to remind the crowd they were allowed to speak without interruption from the audience.

Developments previously approved by the planning commission would not be affected by the moratorium. It would only apply to unincorporated areas of the parish, therefore not affecting the cities of Donaldsonville and Gonzales, nor the Town of Sorrento.

The council could vote on the moratorium during the June 3 meeting at the courthouse in Donaldsonville but are reportedly planning to include it on the June 17 agenda for the next Gonzales meeting.

District 1’s Alvin “Coach” Thomas pointed out that no houses flooded on the west bank of the parish, which he represents along with District 2’s Joel Robert.

In other matters during the meeting:

-- Patrick Goldsmith was announced as the new Chief Financial Officer for the parish. He was recruited out of retirement, Cointment said, and is an East Ascension graduate.

Gwen LeBlanc, who has worked for the parish for 47 years, is set to retire. The council honored her for her decades of service.

-- Three high school bowling teams were honored for their successful seasons.

District 10’s John Cagnolatti said the Dutchtown girls, St. Amant girls, and East Ascension co-ed teams all ended up in the final four this year.