Council votes unanimously to rezone controversial properties


The Gonzales City Council voted unanimously on ordinance 3056 that would amend a code of ordinance chapter 22 Zoning Section 22-4 for boundaries of districts to approve the request to rezone the 25. 38 acre tract situated on the east side of South Burnside Avenue from its existing C-1 to a C-2 zone with a special use permit to have a warehouse in excess of 10,000 square feet.  

It also voted 5-0 on ordinance 3057 amending the code of ordinance Chapter 22 Zoning Section 22-4 for boundaries of districts to approve the request to rezone the 28.09 acres at W. Worthey and S. Darla Avenue from its existing R-8 zone to an R-6 zone.

A previous council denied ordinance 3056, in 2013, and the denial led to two respective lawsuits from the property owners toward the city and councilmembers individually.

Ordinance 3056 refers to the Keating Property with Baton Rouge attorney Steven Duplechain representing Keating family members. Duplechain said in a previous meeting that a zoning of commercial beyond retail is appropriate for the property, which is situated on South Burnside, across the street from other property-zoned industrial and next to a city sewer plant.

Duplechain has said the lawsuit against the city is still in place but that the lawsuit and the city’s reconsideration of the rezoning request are “unlinked.”

However the suit entitled, “Complaint for Damages and Injunctive Relief,” also seeks a mandatory injunction compelling the City of Gonzales to rezone the subject property from C-1 to C-2 in addition to the monetary award.  The claim for $3,000,000 is sought in compensatory damages suffered by plaintiff “as a result of the diminution of the value of Plaintiff’s Property.”

City Clerk Clay Stafford said the special use permit specifically allows “engineering, technical training and education, sale of various products, testing and calibration services, some fabrication and assembly of products, a fenced or screened in lay-down yard, and warehousing in excess of 10,000 square feet.”

“It’s very similar to the special use permit we approved for Emerson,” Stafford said.

Nonetheless, a new council brought on a new vote that gives the Keating family what they asked.

For ordinance 3057, it didn’t go as quickly as the vote on ordinance 3056. The vote went the same, but there was some contesting.

Citizen Tyrone Smith spoke to the council against the zoning change of R-8 to R-6.

“We welcome the community increase in population but we are not happy with the density of that increase,” Smith said. “Too many people in a small area is not only inviting a higher level of community stresses, it will be an increase stress on the police department, the fire department, water drainage, sewage drainage, and other infrastructure.”

“This council does not have a completed zone change package, therefore you have not considered all the consequence of this zone change. Please do not dismiss our reasonable request to deny this zone change,” Smith said.

Alvin Turner submitted the initial request for this zoning change on May 30, 2014. The property was sold five months later to McCoy Property Holdings, LLC, making McCoy Property, LLC the current owner of the property.

 “This council cannot vote for this because of Alvin Turner. He is not the property owner,” Smith said. “This council cannot vote for this zone change because of McCoy Property Holding, LLC they have not completed a zone change application. Therefore it is my understanding that this council is invoking its police power to make a said zone change.”

R.S. 33:4725 gives the council the police power to amend the districts, but Smith said “you are not authorized to do it by piggy backing upon another petitioner’s application.”

“Regardless, if it is the property owner or city council, all such requests shall be accompanied by a completed detailed submittal package,” Smith said. “The council simply used the same paper work in an attempt to piggy back this zone change request to become an ordinance. You have had no time to review the zoning change application checklist.”

“Ask yourself the question, is the answer yes to all the requirements per checklist? If the answer is no, it is your duty to deny this zone change request,” Smith said. “And ponder an even deeper question, why am I voting for this zone change?”

“The council swore an oath to obey your city ordinances and act in the best interest of all its citizens,” Smith said. “Our Chief of Police has a duty, as stated in R.S. 33:423 to enforce those ordinances. A vote to past a zone change application submitted by Alvin Turner on Oct. 6, 2014 would be in contempt of our zone change ordinance procedures. Every one seated on this council today is in the spotlight. Will this council’s actions violate our city ordinance and in doing so will our Chief of Police act to enforce our city ordinances?”

Smith’s dialogue went ignored.

Councilman Kenny Matassa said it’s a “very good-looking development and we talked about the backing out on the highway and he tweaked all of that and I think it’s a fine development and would like to move on it.”

Councilman Terance Irvin, who was one of three members in 2014 who voted against the zoning change, said the question still is on the table in reference to Smith’s comments.

“Who are we doing it for? Have we arrived to a concrete answer? Who are we considering the request for now that Mr. Turner is no longer the property owner,” Irvin said, asking the council. “Mr. McCoy hadn’t come to the council and asked for the zoning change. I assume that, according to 22-22, and it is correct that the council can rezone on its own merit when it sees fit, but at the same time we need to see more into it. I’m going to ask our City Attorney to read into and investigate where we are in terms of section 22-22 and the statute involving that particular ordinance.”

City Attorney Erin Lanoux said she looked into it and it the council can act on a motion to change zoning that’s been done especially after the planning and zoning commission has looked at it.

Irvin asked Matassa specifically, “What’s the purpose of the rezoning?”

Matassa said it’s the same subdivision the planning and zoning commission reviewed.

“Based on their review I make the motion.”

Frank Cagnolatti, chairman of the planning and zoning commission, said they are comfortable with the rezoning.

“When the petition was presented to us from the judge, we made our decisions understanding he was the owner. What happened subsequent to that is of no interest to us,” Cagnolatti said. “Our decision was made based as the judge presented and we were in agreement then and still are.”