Gerald Burns will tell you that the path through government is long and fraught with peril.
Especially if you're looking for money.
But, just last week, the Master Plan Committee took another step toward updating the 2013 version, which was accepted unanimously by the parish council at the end of 2019.
However, parts of the master plan could not be enacted in the parish until upgrades were made, which was the first task of the committee. In Nov. 2019, the committee decided to petition the parish to apply for grants to upgrade the zoning and drainage portions, but were told that would take parish funds for a match, as well as a series of paperwork hurdles.
That first hurdle was developing white papers, or one-page sheet that give a brief overview of a request, that would be sent to grant originators to see if the parish had a shot.
The white papers were requested by Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Mark Harrell, and prepared by Burns and the committee. Burns said that Harrell believed the white papers which were delivered to him would be a good start, and the combined request for updates totaled $750,000.
$250,000 of grant funding will be dedicated to updating the zoning portion of the master plan. The reasons listed in the white paper are:
- Unbridled, uncontrolled commercial and residential growth in the parish.
- Incompatible commercial development built next to and between residential areas.
The zoning portion of the master plan has played a more visible role lately in the parish's operations, as the parish council continues to inform the public that until zoning is in place, certain ordinances cannot be passed - recently, issues dealing with noise and solicitation - and the council's hands are tied regarding new subdivisions
$500,000 would go toward updating the drainage portion of the master plan, which goes a little more in-depth. A key portion of the update to the master drainage plan suggests that having a plan in place will allow the parish to apply for more drainage-specific grants in the future. That information is corroborated in placed like Denham Springs and Walker, which have put forth new plans regarding various things including a bicycle and pedestrian master plan.
According to recovery coordinator Jeanette Clark, having an official plan in place is over half the battle when seeking grant funds.
The drainage portion of the master plan is also focused on bringing funding and maintenance to Districts 6 & 7, which are currently unfunded. Tax funding mechanisms for both districts failed in the fall of 2017.
The next steps for the master plan committee will be to search through databases to find available grants, and then submit the white papers to see if an application opens. After that, the committee will have to take time to fill out the full application.