St. John Parish awarded LRA grant

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 31, 2010



LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom announced Tuesday that the parish received a $176,000 grant from the Louisiana Recovery Authority to assist the parish with a comprehensive land use program for future residential development.

Robottom said the grant, awarded under the “Comprehensive Resiliency Program,” provides comprehensive nonstructural recovery to some of Louisiana’s most at-risk communities.

According to the grant application, the parish wants to use the money to fund a complete re-write of the parish’s zoning and subdivision regulations “so that the development management process is open, accessible and understandable” to residents and landowners.

The current zoning ordinance book has undergone almost no change since it was drafted in 1986. The grant application specifies that the zoning policies have seen numerous ad hoc revisions usually made on “political whim.”

“This lack of revision has prevented the parish from taking advantage of new regulatory mechanisms developed over the last 20 years. It allows the parish to develop more modern zoning and subdivision regulations,” according to the application.

Robottom said the master land use plan would help the parish recover from storm damage at a faster pace, while also reducing the amount of property subject to repetitive flooding problems. She said the program would put plans in place for emergency permitting in an effort to enable faster recovery.

St. John Parish possesses several low-lying areas along the west shore of Lake Pontchartrain that are considered “velocity zones” and that are highly vulnerable to coastal flooding. The land use plan ensures “sustainable development” in areas protected by the eventual completion of the West Shore Hurricane Protection Levee. The final alignment could also open new areas of development for the parish.

The parish has been re-writing its comprehensive land use plan, including a move to establish parishwide goals for future land use and developing a transportation report focusing on disaster evacuation. In addition to the resiliency program grant, St. John Parish Planning and Zoning Director Mike Henderson said the parish has also secured a $375,000 grant through the Regional Planning Commission. He said the plan, which would be created through planners at the University of New Orleans, would come at no cost to the parish.

The grant application states the parish is ready to move forward on the fourth phase of the planning process, which focuses on several components related to pre and post disaster issues including a citizen education and re-visioning process to create awareness of land use development issues; a revised land use element that addresses post Ike and Gustav development issues; an environmental/hazard mitigation that outlines sensitive environmental zones at risk to storm damage; a housing element that identifies location and demand for specific housing types; and a transportation evacuation report for moving careless and at risk populations to more stable ground.