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Tregre vetoes council plan to reconstitute zoning board

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / October 14, 1998

HAHNVILLE – St. Charles Parish President Chris Tregre vetoed thereconstitution of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, approved 7-2 by the Parish Council on Oct. 5.With the veto, the Parish Council could vote to override Tregre’s action at its next regularly-scheduled meeting, set Oct. 19.Tregre’s objections included the ordinance illegally removing the current board members without cause, including an improper procedure for appointing their replacements without full council approval and being incomplete by not providing for designation of a new quorum.

“In closing, I have no issue with increasing the membership of the ZBA,” Tregre said in his veto message issued late Friday, and added, “I find it hard to understand how the majority of the council has a problem with the present makeup of the board as it relates to the residential location of these members when, in fact, the council accepted the nominations and voted by a majority to seat four of the members presently seated on the ZBA.”The ZBA ordinance, co-sponsored by Parish Councilmen “Ram” Ramchandran, Barry Minnich, Brian Champagne, Terry Authement, Dickie Duhe and Bill Sirmon, expanded the panel from seven to nine, including seven full members and two alternates.

Current members are Walter Evans of St. Rose, Gary Caston of St. Rose,Allen Braud of Luling, Bobby Stephenson of Luling, Dwaine Donnaud of Paradis, and alternate members Louise Broach of Luling and Marcel DiGiovanni Jr. of St. Rose. The full members serve five-year terms and thealternates serve three-year terms.

Under the terms of the new ordinance, all members would serve four-year terms, limited to two consecutive terms, and seven would be nominated to represent each council district, with two at-large members.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do since the beginning,” Champagne commented. “It’s totally unfair how these boards are made up.”Tregre said, “I don’t know why you’re doing this. I think you’re doing it forall the wrong reasons.”Tregre continued that members are selected, not to represent any particular district, but according to their knowledge, experience and ability.

His veto message continued, “If residential location was a problem, this should have been addressed at the time of the appointments. The result ofnot addressing this problem, if it is one, during the appointment process, has brought us to this situation and has cast an undeserving shadow on the reputation of the ZBA members who have spent many hours of their time serving with dedication while keeping the best interest of the Parish in mind.”Minnich said he strongly disagreed with Tregre and added, “We need fair representation for every district.”One clause of the new ordinance states: “Terms of the members holding office shall expire when the division and district appointments are in place.”Parish Councilman Curtis Johnson pushed to allow the current ZBA members to serve out their current terms before being replaced. Hismotion died for lack of a second. Parish Councilman Ellis Alexandersuggested the ordinance not take effect until Jan. 1. That notion likewisedied.

“I’d like to see a seamless transfer, without delay,” Ramchandran commented. Duhe concurred, and said he wanted all nominees ready for avote by the Nov. 2 meeting.Earl Matherne, on behalf of the Planning and Zoning Department, said the notion of a panel of new, inexperienced members “concerns me a great deal.”The ordinance passed 7-2, with Alexander and Johnson voting against it.

Member Louise Broach later commented, “I’m rather confused about it. Ifeel as a board we do a really good job.”She noted Ramchandran’s claim that the ZBA had granted too many variances and replied, “Yet, some councilmen have come before the board, asking for variances.”And as to the representation on the ZBA, Broach observed, “That’s no one’s fault but the councilmen’s.”Meanwhile, a proposed ordinance to change the Planning and Zoning Commission to a board with seven district members, two at-large members and appointees of the Parish President and the St. Charles SchoolBoard, respectively, was postponed to Oct. 19.Member Steve Wilson of Destrehan, speaking at the Oct. 5 Parish Councilmeeting, questioned whether the change could be done without an amendment to the parish’s Home Rule Charter.

Other members of the Planning Commission include Blaine Babineaux of Montz, Warence Charles of St. Rose, Robert J. Dervaloy of Luling, MarilynRichoux of Destrehan, Sherral J. DuRousseau of Paradis, chairman BillReaves of Luling, Parish Councilman Bill Sirmon of Luling and School Board Member Michael Henderson of Luling.

That board serves four-year terms; however, Wilson, Charles and Reaves are serving out seven-year terms.

The Planning and Zoning Commission was not consulted on the matter and are not scheduled to meet again until November. The matter was postponedto Oct. 19, as recommended by parish attorney Randy Lewis, until thatpanel’s input was heard.

The postponement was approved 7-2, with Ramchandran and Duhe voting against it.

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