Council votes for rezone 3-1

Lisa Yates, Editor
Gonzales City Council meeting draws a standing-room-only crowd for its June 25 meeting.

Over protests from residents in the Kennedy Heights community, Ordinance No. 3000, which changes 18.62 acres at the intersection of W. Orice Roth Rd. and S. Veterans Blvd. from Residential-15 to Commercial-2, was approved on a 3-1 vote.

Mayor Barney Arceneaux and Councilmen Ronald “Joe” Waguespack, John Cagnolatti and Kirk Boudreaux favored the rezone; Councilman Terance Irvin was opposed; Councilman Kenny Matassa was absent.

Residents of Kennedy Heights have argued that changing the parcel of land near I-10 and Hwy. 30 would negatively alter the quiet residential neighborhood near Gonzales Middle School and reduce minority housing/voting strength in the area.

Proponents have said, for the city to attract Emerson, a Fortune 500 Company, property along the highway corridor is needed for its regional headquarters.

Company officials report the expansion will bring 180 permanent jobs to Gonzales, including 90 new jobs, with an annual payroll of $9.2 million.

The controversy began earlier this year when N.A. “Sonny” Lamendola applied to have an 18.62-acre parcel rezoned from residential to Light-Industrial to accommodate construction of a facility for Emerson, a high-tech fabrication company which builds equipment for a world-wide market. The company currently operates a facility in Ascension Parish on Hwy. 74, and has been in the parish for 40 years.

In supporting the rezone, the mayor said, “This was not an easy decision.”

Mayor Arceneaux said during the past few weeks, one of the concerns raised repeatedly was about increased traffic in the area.

“I totally understand,” he said. “Transportation has not kept pace with the increase of traffic, but we have developed a long-term plan to solve this.”

Arceneaux said whether the area was rezoned commercial or left residential, residents would have to fight increasing traffic as the area developed.

“We’ve been working on this from the get-go,” he said. “That being said, I think this is a good project and we should support it.”

In opposing the rezone, Councilman Terance Irvin said while he respected and appreciated those speaking on behalf of Emerson, it is the council’s job to represent the City of Gonzales and its residents.

“Who do we represent?” he asked. “We have to put the people first.”

Prior to the vote, Tyrone Smith, a spokesman for the opposition group, presented a new petition with the names of 215 residents opposing the zoning change and he raised a number of concerns. He said the council does not have sufficient information to make a sound decision to approve the zoning commission’s recommendation.

“Yet, it should be apparent to the council that the community is opposed to the zoning change,” he said. “We are asking the council to put this issue to rest and recommend Emerson to ask for a permit in an area zoned for fabrication.”

In an earlier interview with Gonzales Weekly Citizen, Smith threatened litigation if the council approved the rezoning ordinance.