Ashton plans to proceed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 18, 2004

By LEONARD GRAY – Managing Editor

LULING – Plans for the 2,000-homesite Ashton Estates have progressed little since September 1997, when the property was purchased for development, but that changed Monday night.

The St. Charles Parish Council introduced an ordinance for consideration at their March 8 meeting to clear the last blockade to the project’s development.

The end result, according to parish attorney Bobby Raymond, will be the closing of the Ellington Avenue railroad crossing, the upgrade of the Gassen Street crossing and the establishment of a new crossing in the Ashton acreage.

“It’s primarily a safety issue, plus economic development, at no cost to the parish,” Raymond said Monday.

The holdup in development had been the Union Pacific Railroad, which previously resisted construction of a new crossing off River Road near Interstate 310, leading to the bulk of the Ashton development.

The joint venture with J.B. Levert Land Co. and Rathborne Land Co. plans to begin marketing lots in its first phase of 211 homesites, “The Lakes,” once that approval is reached.

The ordinance, introduced by Parish President Albert Laque, will authorize the closing of the Ellington crossing, the upgrade of the Gassen Street crossing with state-of-the-art computerized crossing technology and construction of the Ashton crossing with the same technology, using $250,000 from the state Department of Transportation and Development.

Once the Ellington crossing is closed, that will trigger release of the DOTD funds, Raymond stated.

The technology consists of indicators to “read” the speed and distance of an approaching train, so as not to drop the crossing gates too soon. Dropping the gates too early, Raymond continued, often results in waiting motorists attempting to drive around the gates, endangering themselves.

Parish Councilman Clayton Faucheux, who lived on Ellington Avenue as a child, commented he has “mixed feelings” about closing the crossing on that street.

However, he added, development of Ashton “will contribute greatly to the land values in old Luling.

Faucheux has a deep interest in the railroad crossings of old Luling, as Faucheux’s grandfather, St. Charles Parish Police Juror Arnold Faucheux, died in a traffic accident, attempting to cross at Paul Maillard Road in the early 1970s.

In time, the Ashton developmental plans, according to its website, will include 2,022 homesites, 220 acres of parks, 5.5 miles of walking paths and 104 acres of lakes.

The plans for the first phase also include a 29-acre site for a new elementary school, a lot for a community center and improvements at River Road to improve access, according to J.B. Levert Land manager Jim Hooper.

Next, the planners will select contractors for construction of the drainage system, the central “spine” road and the river road connection.

An emergency-only entrance from Hackberry Street will be closed with a gate except for fire, ambulance and police.

In exchange, the developers agreed to give $60,000 toward improvements of Hackberry, a narrow, two-lane road connecting with Paul Maillard Road, presently with deep ditches on each side.

Once the subdivision has reached the 1,130 home-point in its long-term development, the developers will seek direct access to Interstate 310, Hooper said.

The developers hope to build an average of 80 residences per year over a period of 20 years, according to Rathborne Land Company.

The 1,625-acre Ashton Plantation adjoining Luling was purchased in September 1997, by a partnership including Rathborne and J.B. Levert Land Company for $2.2 million from St. Charles Holdings Inc.