Planning Commission votes 3-2 to approve Delaune Estates, Windermere Crossing plats

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Several citizens spoke during the public hearing at the July 14 Ascension Parish Planning Commission meeting in Gonzales.

On the eve of the nine-month moratorium on new developments taking effect, the Ascension Parish Planning Commission heard from several residents opposed to further growth.

Ultimately, the commission voted 3-2 on two separate plats - Delaune Estates and Windermere Crossing.

Recent parish government meetings have featured a pronounced press from citizens voicing their frustrations during public hearings. The trend continued during the July 14 meeting in Gonzales.

First up, a lengthy public hearing was held for Delaune Estates, previously known as Antebellum Pointe. It is a 237-lot subdivision located on 86 acres in the area of White Road at Hwy. 73, about a mile from the Interstate 10 exit.

The plat was denied by the planning commission in March 2020, and failed to pass the council acting as the appeals board in July 2020. The owners of the property later filed a lawsuit against the parish. 

Susan Jordan, who frequently speaks during public hearings, said denying Delaune Estates was "a no-brainer."

Many of the speakers pointed out the area as notorious for traffic snarls.

"If you go to Hwy. 73, you don't need a traffic study to know it can't take this," Tim Babin said to the commission.

Some of the speakers contended that any study done in 2020 would be inaccurate due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. A representative for the developers said the pandemic conditions were accounted for in the studies.

Planning Commission Chair Matt Pryor speaks during the July 14 meeting.

At one point, Theresa Robert played a phone video of Pryor speaking. Pryor replied that he had been speaking about a different area in that instance. The crowd applauded as Robert stepped away from the microphone, as it did for many speakers throughout the night.

Later, Pam Delaune said she was representing the Delaune family. 

"We're not going anywhere. We are not afraid," she said.

Though she acknowledged her heart breaks for those who flooded, Delaune said rain events are "acts of God."

Bill Delaune Jr. followed, recalling a brief history of his family in the parish.

"We're just hard-working, good citizens whose family has been here on this land over a century," he said.

Commissioner Julio Dumas made a motion to approve the Delaune Estates plat. It passed 3-2 as Pryor, Dumas, and Ken Firmin voted in favor. Aaron Chaisson and Todd Varnado went against it.

The commission then moved on to the major revision of the preliminary plat for Windermere Crossing. 

As the public hearing began, Director of Planning and Facilities Ricky Compton read a statement on behalf of the parish president's administration.

The Windermere Crossing plat is located at Cannon Road near Roddy Road.

During the public hearing, Theresa Robert said the Jan. 13 virtual meeting for the development was a "travesty" due to technical issues not allowing the public to provide their input.

In that meeting, the commission approved the subdivision’s 103-lot preliminary plat by a 4-2 vote.

Kathryn Goppelt followed, saying "the problem is with will power."

"You forget about the people who have to live this, day in and day out," she said.

Jaise Templet followed, showing the commissioners aerial photos he took with his drone of flooding in the area.

Moments later, a speaker asked the commissioners why they hold a public hearing if they do not vote in favor of the majority.

"We take into consideration what the public has to say. If we don't vote the way you like, it doesn't mean we didn't take it into consideration or didn't hear it," Pryor said.

Later in the public hearing, Del Stafford asked when the building will stop in the parish.

"For 40 years I've been here. Every blade of grass is getting cut down, and getting a stinking house put on it. We're not Baton Rouge, and we don't want to be Baton Rouge," he said.

Dumas made the motion to approve the revised master plan with the condition that Cannon Road be widened prior to the final plat.

The vote was 3-2. Pryor, Dumas, and Firmin voted in favor. Chaisson and Varnado voted against it.