Blackmail alleged in plantation planning process in Ascension
DARROW- One man claims his attempt to grow a historic property turned into blackmail in Ascension Parish.
The rift between the owner of the Houmas House Plantation and two planning commissioners came to head this week.
The grounds at Houmas House are in-line for a bed and breakfast, museum and new gardens, but when owner Kevin Kelly shared those plans with two Ascension Parish Planning Commissioners, ahead of a meeting to consider the project, he got a response he never expected.
Kelly said, "These two gentlemen, Commissioner Clouatre and Satterlee decided that they wanted to use my project as leverage to change and have the PUD, SPUD, TND law revoked."
Those laws address large land developments, like subdivisions and apartment complexes, and forces the parish to approve any projects that follow the requirements.
Houmas House is caught in that law because of the property size, and because there's no exception for historic properties. Kelly says the Planning Director offered to work on getting council to create that exception.
But he says the commissioners told him they want the complete laws gone and they wouldn't approve his project unless he helped them make it happen.
"I was insulted that I was asked to negotiate for them in order for me to get a simple approval on a design plan," said Kelly, "This is trading a value for another value or an asset for another asset and that's blackmail and I wasn't going to participate with that."
So he sent a letter to the parish, pulling his plans from the meeting and telling the story of why. He ended the letter saying, "I do not feel that I should be put in the position to lobby the parish council to revoke laws that are designed for a Smart Growth, simply because several planning commissioners do not like the law as written."
News 2 went looking for those commissioners to get their side of the story.
Commissioner Milton Clouatre said, "At this particular time, I have no comment, it's political."
Commissioner Dan Satterlee said the exact same thing, but wouldn't go on-camera.
As for Kelly, he plans to keep Houmas House moving forward, despite, what he calls, an intentional setback.
Kelly said, "I'm investing in this parish, I think everyone wants what I want here."
Kelly is considering legal action against the two commissioners.