While the crowd was not as large as the night before, at Planning and Zoning, several city residents reiterated their concerns about a potential development.
The Denham Springs Housing Authority is looking to place a new location, to replace on of their old sites for low-to-moderate income housing that was lost in the flood, at the old Delta Concrete location on East Railroad Avenue.
However, that would require a re-zone for the property from I-1 to R-3, which is currently under discussion. The 'standing room only' crowd at the Planning and Zoning meeting brought up a variety of concerns for the property, with the commission eventually voting 4-2 to table the matter to 'gather more information' before their Mar. 9 meeting.
Planning and Zoning meets once a month.
The council, which met the night after, tabled the item as well - but not after some of the same issues were discussed. One issue was added to the table, which had not been discussed Monday night, which included a drainage impact study that can only be incurred once a development is approved.
Currently, no development is approved for the site, therefore no drainage impact study has been done.
The other concern, which caused the council to flex their public hearing on the matter to Mar. 23, is the amount of time between planning and zoning, and the council meeting. Residents voiced opposition to having the public hearing almost immediately following the planning and zoning meeting, saying that they felt the council needed more time to assess the commission's decision on the matter.
Mayor Gerard Landry explained that, ultimately, the decision lies with the council and the planning and zoning commission simply makes 'recommendations.'
Councilmen Jeff Wesley and Robert Poole agreed, making the motion and the second to move the council's public hearing to later in the month - which was approved unanimously.
Council woman Laura Schmitt Smith asked how she could make sure the planning and zoning commission were asking the right questions and getting the right information. City attorney Stephanie Hulett responded that the council woman can always send a letter to commission members, or do her own research and pass it along.
The public hearing for the matter is set for Mar. 23, 2020 at the new Denham Springs City hall, 6 p.m.
Below is what happened during Planning & Zoning:
It was ‘standing room only’ at the Denham Springs’ planning and zoning meeting on Feb. 10.
In fact, they had to move the meeting into the courtroom’s waiting area, because there was not enough space in the usual chambers.
On the docket? A potential 17 structure development at the old Delta Concrete location, next to the railroad tracks. That development, proposed for low-to-moderate income individuals by the Denham Springs Housing Authority, would be a replacement for a multi-building development for the same purpose in another part of Denham Springs.
The re-zoning of the property was requested so that the development could be relocated to a place in Denham Springs that did not flood, making it easier to comply with FEMA and HUD regulations.
Nine individuals spoke against the proposed rezoning, specifically because of the proposed purpose of what would go in it’s place. The development would have 52 units total:
- One building with 10 units
- One building with 12 units
- 15 duplexes, 2 units each
The nine individuals who spoke against the development had a variety of issues, including traffic, personal safety, personal health of the tenants, and the current usage of the ‘corridor.’
Parish councilman Maurice ‘Scooter’ Keen, who owns a dry cleaning establishment on the same street, described the area as a commercial and industrial ‘corridor’ with just businesses in the area.
The area on Hwy. 190, stretching from the eastern border of the city’s limits, westbound, has become mostly commercial on the north side of the road. There is a smattering of commercial and residential on the south side.
E. Railroad Avenue contains the city’s gas department, as well as commercial businesses. The area to the north of the site is residential on Summer, Brignac, Fletcher, and Centerville streets.
Other concerns included:
- Train whistles sound off at 150 decibels, and insulated walls can only stop 70 decibels, so residents will be exposed to 80 decibels worth of noise, every day
- Children will not be safe near the train tracks
- One resident said that construction of a large, residential development within 40’ of a train track can increase the chance of derailment
- Concerns over contaminants in the concrete and soil in the area due to more relaxed restrictions in the past
- Reduced access to for first responders because of the train tracks
- Increased traffic in the area
- The cost of demolition of the structure and the particulates it would create
- The ‘back’ portion of the property floods
There were residents who stated they would raise money for elevators to keep the current development where it is, south of Hwy 190. There is a large drop in elevation from where the old Albertsons sat, and the development, as evidenced during the flood.
In order to meet FEMA and HUD requirements, the old housing development for low-to-moderate income would have to elevate substantially, requiring elevators.
However, neither FEMA nor HUD will cover the cost to install elevators, or their maintenance.
Five individuals spoke for the development, stating that those citizens who had been forced to leave after it was announced that the old housing authority development would not be reconstructed immediately. Those individuals said that the return of citizens meant more tax dollars would return to Denham Springs.
The development itself would be exempt from property taxes.
In the end, the item was tabled as the committee asked to seek more information. The final vote was 4-2, with Kathy Harris and Lyn Deville being the ‘no’ votes.
The next Denham Springs Planning and Zoning meeting will occur on Mar. 9, at 6 p.m. at city hall. It will be another public hearing with comments welcomed.