Envision Livingston 1

LIVINGSTON - A financial road block caused a pivot on the part of those who would like to see zoning - and other parish wide proposals - come to fruition.

In early August, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Mark Harrell visited the Master Plan Committee and presented a grant funding plan to them, which would go through the parish, which would required a local match of anywhere from $375,000 to $500,000.

Harrell said the cost of including parish wide drainage and sewer caused the cost, and time frame, to increase; but he said it could be done with the parish president's financial blessing.

Just a few weeks later, committee chairman Gerald Burns said a conversation with parish president Layton Ricks led to a tough truth - the money wasn't there.

With a financial block placed on the project, and a time frame that had increased to two years or more, original proponent and parish councilman Tracy Girlinghouse decided to pull a bold move and introduce the acceptance of the original Master Plan - passed by non-binding resolution in 2013 - which will come up for a vote Thursday night.

Girlinghouse believes he has the support as councilmen in the western and central districts are interested in some form of zoning in their respective areas. The initial focus will be for zoning in individual districts, which was the first piece of the original master plan.

The 2013 plan was a result of a $450,000 FEMA grant and nearly two years of steering committee meetings, public input sessions, and open houses that formed a 100+ page document that outlined where the parish came from; what was happening at the time in 2013 in terms of growth; and where the plan believed the parish should venture forward.

That forward plan was divided into seven different categories:

  1. Land Use & Zoning
  2. Wastewater
  3. Transportation
  4. Drainage
  5. Domestic water provision
  6. Emergency preparation
  7. Coastal management

Each section was outlined with how the parish deals with the issue ‘today’ (in 2013); any challenges that the parish would face in pursuing a goal of improvement; why the parish should choose to improve those individual sections; and then a very general step-by-step implementation guide for each idea - which contained strategies, policies, actions, and guidelines.

‘Envision Livingston’ called for the parish to hire a ‘master planner’ position which would take the moves made by the parish council, at the time, and work to implement them.

However, the master plan began on loose ground and didn’t make it very far. After being adopted by resolution, which is non-binding by law, the first move was a motion from then councilman Ronnie Sharp (District 8, Springfield area) to allow individual districts to select their own path with regard to zoning.

That motion carried a second, but died on a 4-4 vote after one councilman abstained due to ‘lack of knowledge of the proposal.’

After that, the master plan was mentioned rarely in passing according to News records of parish council meetings.

The following is a passage from the story, written May 30, 2013 by Mike Dowty of the News, regarding the passage of ‘Envision Livingston’ and the subsequent vote:

Right after a unanimous vote to accept a plan that envisions a zoning corridor along areas adjacent to Interstate 12 and U.S. 190, the Council rejected a proposal by Councilman Ronnie Sharp to allow voters in each ward to pass judgement on their own local zoning laws, if any.

The Council vote on Sharp’s amendment split 4-4, leaving it one short of the minimum five required for passage. Three Council members from the West side of the parish voted against Sharp’s proposal, which drew strenuous objections from Master Plan Steering Committee Chairman John Ware. Sharp found support from the more rural areas in eastern and Southern Livingston Parish as well as from Councilman Jim Norred of Watson. Ricky Goff, who represents the Walker area, abstained after complaining he needed more time to evaluate the details of Sharp’s plan.

Ware argued that voters already have a say in planning because they get to elect and unelect their Council representatives and received ample opportunity to give input for the plan at numerous meetings over the past year.

“I say the people have spoken or had a chance to speak all this time,” Ware said.

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