Candidate for District 2 urges Parish Council to make decision on subdivision approvals

Joel Robert, the author of the Letter to the Editor below, has declared his candidacy for the Council’s District 2 election on October 12, 2019.

Permits are given to developers by the Ascension Parish Planning Commission. This planning commission is out of control, they are smothering our infrastructure to the brink of annihilation: Sub-par roads comprise an insufficient road network; an inadequate drainage system, in dire need of maintenance throughout; overcrowding of schools. This overdevelopment is reaped from the shady politicians amongst our council whom are using the Planning commission to deflect the public outrage.

There is an opportunity to hold our elected officials accountable to represent the people.

The planning commission is not elected by the people of the Parish, instead they are appointed by the Parish Council. The planning commission should be used as a resource to vet the development process, they should make recommendations, then pass to council for a vote. This is not how Ascension Parish Government operates. They currently have the first and final word on all development.

On October 11 I attended Ascension’s Council Strategic Planning Committee because it presented an opportunity to fix this improper delegation of power. I was there to stand up for my district, District 2. Bill Dawson, current District 2 councilman made the motion to get an opinion from Louisiana’s Attorney General; clearly a delay tactic.

Parish Attorney O’Neil Parenton said that state law does not require Ascension to have a planning commission at all. But, if we do have a commission, the council cannot take away its power to approve subdivisions.

Strategic Planning’s chairman talked about a state law that seemed to say the opposite. I looked up. Revised Statute 33:103 (F) says that “any parish or municipality with a home rule charter may avail itself of the power and authority granted herein to a planning commission.

Then I read that Livingston Parish’s council does what our legal adviser says cannot be done in Ascension.

It is evident that the current development approval system is broken. Decisions are being made with absolutely no accountability to the citizens of Ascension. Citizens that have repeatedly attended planning commission meetings protesting new developments on already crippled infrastructure. Sadly, this is done in vain because the planning commission, led by Matt Pryor, continues to pass every development put in front of them; at times, actually breaking Parish Ordinances to illegally pass and permit projects.

A few examples are:

In March of 2016 the Commission approved a 780-lot subdivision when the parish’s engineer called for $50 million of improvements along the Hwy 44 corridor from I-10 in Gonzales to Hwy 22.

The rules were suspended for Riverton which was allowed to separate its development into several phases without any Traffic Impact Analysis at all.

The days of the Parish Council using the planning commission as a scapegoat are numbered. Developers will not continue plundering our Parish. We should require developers to invest in our communities, building roads, schools, parks, etc. The parish council should make the final vote on any developments.

This is a big deal to We the People. We should have the right to vote for the officials making these enormous decisions with tremendous consequences. The Council has an opportunity to do the right thing and make the amendments creating more checks and balances; and more accountability to the people of Ascension Parish.

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