Ascension Parish Council upholds subdivision denial

Michael Tortorich

A 6-4 vote Monday night fell short of the necessary eight votes to overturn the March 11 denial of a 237-lot subdivision preliminary plat, previously known as Antebellum Pointe.

A 237-lot proposed subdivision located on 86 acres off Hwy. 73 near Interstate 10 was denied March 11. Following a vote July 27, the Delaune Estates denial stands.

Four council members - Aaron Lawler, Michael Mason, Dal Waguespack, and Chase Melancon - voted against overturning the Planning and Zoning denial during the Board of Appeals meeting. Voting in favor of overturning the denial with conditions were: Alvin Thomas, Corey Orgeron, Travis Turner, Dempsey Lambert, Teri Casso, and John Cagnolatti. Joel Robert was absent.

Formerly called Antebellum Pointe, the proposed project was referred to as Delaune Estates during the meeting. The 86 acres of land, owned by the Delaune family, is located west of Hwy. 73 at White Road, just more than a mile from Interstate 10.

Prior to voting, Orgeron said the Delaune family would have a justifiable lawsuit if denied. He said the parish “could get popped” for close to $8 million.

Orgeron revealed that he had received close to 100 emails from people concerned about the impact of the development.

“I have to look at the overall picture,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, William “Bill” Delaune Jr. represented his family, asking for the members’ support. He said the land has been “cherished” by his family going back to the Great Depression era when the Delaunes ran a general store there. He added that his family’s decision to sell it was among “the most difficult of [their] lives.”

A string of concerned residents followed during the public comment portion of the meeting. The majority of speakers took issue with familiar northern Ascension Parish themes of traffic, drainage, and sewer. Additional lanes on Interstate 10 to Baton Rouge did not seem to quell the audience’s concerns about traffic flow in the bustling area.

Earlier, Casso warned there would be no applause or heckling tolerated during the meeting. She further pointed out that she would defer to the law enforcement officers on hand if anyone was out of order.

One of the speakers, attorney Marcus Plaisance, expressed concerns about increased traffic and more wrecks. After his three minutes expired, Casso granted “some latitude” in allowing him to speak over his allotted time.

“If you vote to approve this subdivision, you are approving those wrecks,” said Plaisance, prior to halting for an audible laugh.

“Thank you for laughing, Mr. Orgeron. I appreciate it,” he said. “Because you’re our representative and nobody in your district wants this other than the people who stand to have a financial gain.”

Casso then banged the gavel and asked Plaisance to wrap up his comments.

“Chairwoman, I move his time is up. He needs to sit,” Orgeron interjected.

While Kathryn Goppelt read a prepared statement, she made a reference to Lawler, prompting Casso to rap the gavel once again. 

As Goppelt continued to read, Casso called for a recess, at which point council members stood up and exited the room.

A law officer spoke briefly to Goppelt, who then turned around and walked out of the back door. Momentarily, the council returned to their seats.

Prior to voting, the council members went into executive session on two separate periods to discuss legal matters with attorney O’Neil Parenton.