The suit comes after the commission approved two new subdivisions in the area, Jamestown I and II. The neighborhoods are not yet under construction, but residents are concerned about the effect more development will have on Highway 930, which they say is already deteriorating
Several Ascension Parish residents have filed a lawsuit against the parish over a narrow roadway where further development is underway. Quail Creek residents Caroline Watson and Kim Christy and Ascension Parish resident Jeff Pettit filed the suit. The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday, names the Ascension Parish Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission as defendants.
The suit comes after the commission approved two new subdivisions in the area, Jamestown I and II. The neighborhoods are not yet under construction, but residents are concerned about the effect more development will have on Highway 930, which they say is already deteriorating.
Highway 930 measures 17.3” wide on average, according to chief engineer Joey Tureau. The suit notes that a parish ordinance requires roads to be at least 18 feet wide. Petit said the Planning and Zoning Commission was informed about the dangerous condition of the road before it approved two new subdivisions in the area.
“That report was delivered to the Planning Commission and was reported at the meeting,” said Pettit. “The commission ignored it.”
Pettit said the road is too narrow to allow safe passage for vehicles. He stated that two pickup trucks cannot pass one another, one would be forced off the road. He went on to say that the sides of the road are falling apart already and worries that increased traffic would make matters even worse.
“The road is dangerous, literally crumbling,” said Pettit.
In the engineering report, Tureau measured the width of the road every 50 feet and found only three places on the highway where the road stretched more than 18 feet across. Pettit noted that a new high school is in the works on the same highway. He said school traffic combined with 172 new homes in the area will worsen traffic conditions on the crumbling highway.
The parish is working to take over Highway 930, which is currently a state highway. Transportation Chairman Aaron Lawler confirmed that, saying if the parish does not take over the road, the state will not work on it, as evidenced by its current state. He agrees that the highway is in poor condition, but he said there's little the parish can do while the state owns the road.
"Either we take over the road and get the work done, or we don't and we continue to have dangerous roads," said Lawler.
Lawler said dangerous roads should be fixed to prevent incidents, but as it currently sits, Highway 930 is owned by the state. That's why the parish is pushing to take ownership of the highway, which would include the right of ways the state has already acquired for a widening. The funding to widen the highway was budgeted in the state capital outlay budget last year, but it was line item vetoed by Governor John Bel Edwards amid the state's ongoing financial woes and a massive budget shortfall that has yet to be resolved.
The lawsuit seeks to shut down construction of the Jamestown subdivisions until the road has been widened and brought up to code. Although the subdivisions have already been approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, Pettit said the approval will not be final until the minutes of the last meeting have been read into the record. That's why the suit called for a temporary restraining order to prevent the minutes from being read in and stop "the illegal approval of the subdivisions." Pettit noted that residents are not against the new subdivisions, but rather they would like to see the road fixed before any new development is made.
"It's not about stopping development," said Pettit. "It's about doing it responsibly."
Responsible development, Pettit said, would be repairing the road before worsening traffic issues with new schools and neighborhoods. But Lawler reiterated that the failing condition of the state highway is more of a reflection on the state than the parish.
"If we had control of that road, we could be doing work on it right now," said Lawler.
The transportation committee is expected to take up a resolution soon that would enable the parish to begin overseeing the maintenance of the highway.
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