Ascension Parish Council approves $345,494 consulting contract amendment

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Bret C. Keast of Kendig Keast Collaborative speaks to the Ascension Parish Council during the Sept. 30 meeting in Gonzales.

The Ascension Parish Council heard a more detailed presentation on growth management from Kendig Keast Collaborative consultants at the Sept. 30 special meeting in Gonzales.

Ultimately, the council approved the $345,494 consulting contract amendment. Corey Orgeron was absent.

Kendig Keast Collaborative, an implementation-based, urban planning consultancy based in Sugar Land, Texas, analyzed the parish's unified land development code and discussed current and future growth issues with the council.

Tareq Wafaie, KKC principal-in-charge, began by pointing out the boom in growth Ascension Parish has experienced in the past two decades.

"You've been on a tear, and you've seen a lot of change," Wafaie said.

As he mentioned, the Capital Regional Planning Commission estimates further growth of 52,000 people and 22,500 housing units by 2042.

Ascension Parish reported 126,500 people in the 2020 Census, an 18 percent rise from the 2010 U.S. Census. The total has nearly doubled since 2000 when the count was 76,627.

Ascension Parish had the second-fastest growth rate in Louisiana from 2010 to 2020.

KKC recommendations going forward included: Reworking zoning districts, retaining three current rural, conservation, and residential medium district standards, and adding countryside, rural, and estate districts.

Wafaie and Bret C. Keast then took a break from the presentation and fielded questions from council members.

Growth potential on the west side of Ascension Parish was among the topics discussed, as westbank representatives Alvin "Coach" Thomas and Joel Robert talked about possibilities. Robert's district spans both sides of the Mississippi River, while Thomas' is solely on the west side.

Over at least the past two decades, east side areas like Prairieville and Dutchtown have boomed with new subdivisions and retail developments. Much of the eastbank areas have served as bedroom communities to nearby Baton Rouge. Job opportunities have been plentiful along the industrial corridor stretching into the New Orleans area. 

Connectivity of roadways in parish subdivisions has been a major issue through the years, Chair Teri Casso said.

"Everyone wants to live on a cul de sac," Keast said, referring to the common desire of living in a quiet neighborhood with little traffic.

KKC also has worked with other growing Louisiana communities, such as Tangipahoa Parish and Zachary, a booming community on the north side of East Baton Rouge Parish.

The renovation of the historic B. Lemann and Bro. building on Mississippi and Railroad in Donaldsonville was brought up as an example of restoring vacant structures.

The mixed-income, mixed-use project consists of 42 units of artist-preferred housing with 7,600 square-feet of commercial space on the ground floor.

Dempsey Lambert brought up concerns about further infrastructure strain on the east side when the new Prairieville High School opens.

Also of note, the council returned to meeting in-person after a second stint of virtual meetings. The council had returned to meeting via Zoom due to concerns over the COVID-19 fourth surge.

Council meetings are generally held at the courthouse in Donaldsonville on the first Thursday of the month, and the new courthouse annex in Gonzales on the third Thursday.

CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to reflect that council member Corey Orgeron was absent.