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Council denies Elvina rezoning

(Editor’s Note: This story was updated since its first publication to correctly reflect the number of Council members who were present at an August meeting outside of the regular Parish Council meeting. Three Council members were present at the prior meeting along with Parish President Jaclyn Hotard. )

LAPLACE — An issue embroiled in controversy from its origin went down with barely a whimper during a meeting of the St. John the Baptist Parish Council.

After little discussion and a far more civil environment than two weeks earlier, council members on Aug. 28 voted to deny an application to rezone the Elvina Plantation from R-1 to Rural Zoning, which would have allowed for a clay pit to be dug. The meeting was originally scheduled Aug. 25, briefly rescheduled to Sept. 1 before the Aug. 28 date was settled.

When the rezoning application was denied by an 8-2 motion, with Warren Torres and Kurt Becnel dissenting, the issue was settled, thus negating a follow-up motion to approve the rezoning that was next on the agenda. However, the council voted unanimously to deny that motion as a matter of preference.

During public comments, several residents from the River Forest subdivision, which buttresses the Elvina property, renewed their opposition to the proposal.

Dr. Christy Montegut of LaPlace had sought to rezone 162 acres of the 700-plus acre plot of family land for the purpose of digging a pit, with the spoil potentially being sold to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for construction of the massive West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Levee Project spanning St. John, St. Charles and St. James parishes.

During an Aug. 11 meeting, Council Chairman Lennix Madere expressed his disappointment with an earlier meeting attended by three council members and Parish President Jaclyn Hotard. Madere, on Aug. 11, questioned that private meeting and appeared offended he did not receive an invitation.

Although there was little discussion at the Aug. 28 meeting regarding the actual zoning proposal, council members briefly focused on that earlier meeting. Councilwoman Tammy Houston, who was in attendance at the meeting in question, insisted it was not illegal.

Hotard admitted she was in a delicate position and added she will not allow herself to be placed in a similar situation.

In other council news, the council passed a resolution to endorse and support the Louisiana Economic Development’s Communities Program and its work plan. The council also authorized Hotard and Economic Development Director Stanley Bienemy to cooperate with and participate in the community assessment and strategic planning activities of the parish.

Bienemy said this will include developing a five-year economic development plan within the parish.

Hotard said she met with LED officials shortly after taking office and that progress has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. She said she hopes to have smaller, socially distanced meetings in the community to discuss plans.

“The focus of the meetings will be on bringing in new businesses and how to help existing businesses,” Hotard said.

Council members also agreed to renew the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with the Sheriff’s Office for the West Bank Public Complex. When completed, the complex will be shared by law enforcement and fire protection officials.

Cost of the complex will be split evenly, thus requiring renewal of the CEA.