Organizers of ‘100 Percent Strong’ announce plans to sue city

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Tyrone Smith and a group of Kennedy Heights residents known as “100 Percent Strong” notified Mayor Barney Arceneaux and the city council of his intent to sue for the June 25 zoning change.

In papers presented at the Aug. 13 council meeting, Smith’s attorney names the mayor, city council and zoning commision in the lawsuit. He cited when the city council voted to rezone the property, it did so “without following the prescribed rules, procedures and applicable city ordinances” to rezone from residential to a light industrial zone.

Mayor Arceneaux and City Attorney Ryland Percy refused to comment, saying they have not been served through the courthouse officially.

Smith’s attorney, Paul Aucoin of Vacherie, was not available for comment prior to press deadline.

The plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are Laverne Deal, Darrell Irvin, Lloyd Irvin, Roosevelt Mackyeon, Tyrone Smith and Frank Smith, Jr.

Among their allegations, they say the city council:

• Failed to collect the required filing fee.

• Failed to obtain a detailed submittal package of the zoning request as required by the city code.

• Failed to wait the six months to accept a subsequent rezoning request.

• Accepted a verbal request for a zone change, as opposed to a written rezoning request.

• Voted for a zoning change not requested by the applicant.

• Failed to fllow the City’s Comprehensive Master Growth Plan.

• Failed to require widening of the street as a condition of the zoning request.

• Engaged in “spot zoning.”

• Reduced the area of the requested zoning change without following proper procedures.

Smith and the other plaintiffs are seeking to have the zoning change declared “null and void” and to have the court revert the property back to its original classification.

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

Residents of Kennedy Heights have argued that changing that 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.

La. Sen. Troy Brown, D-Geismar, spoke at the Aug. 13 meeting, saying he is in support of Emerson, but is concerned for the residents and the future of their neighborhood.

“The public is concerned that this project will turn out like some of the other projects in the area,” he said. “If you drive through the area, you can see that some of these other projects have diminished over time,” he said in an interview with Gonzales Weekly Citizen.

In the meeting, Councilman Terance Irvin motioned to rescind a 2 percent rebate incentive given to Emerson; however, it failed to receive a second.

Irvin said the pending lawsuit represented the residents’ opposition to having their property rezoned from resiential to commerical.

“The people have spoken,” he said. “I applaud the residents for standing up for what they believe in.”