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Droves of residents implore council to approve Ascension construction moratorium

3 weeks 2 days 20 hours ago Thursday, May 20 2021 May 20, 2021 May 20, 2021 11:13 PM May 20, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ

GONZALES - Support for a year-long construction moratorium flooded in Thursday night as residents of Ascension Parish packed the newly-christened council chambers.

"The fear of our homes flooding is not going to go away," one resident said.

"I think when they build these subdivisions, they're messing with drainage," another resident told council members. "It's not working."

Some, like Tim Banker, who has lived in Ascension for six decades, understands both sides of this moratorium but says the pause is long overdue.

"We should have done this 20 years ago, at least," Banker said. "We should have slowed [development] down, and took a step back then, but we didn't. For me, it got out of hand."

Ascension Parish president, Clint Cointment made his pitch for the halt Thursday night, days after excess rainfall and flooded homes proved to be the final straw for him.

"When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging, Cointment said.

The moratorium, which would bar new, future construction - both residential and commercial - for one year, was introduced Thursday. Plenty of residents chose to address council members in support of the pause. Much of their reasoning has been heard time and time again.

"We've got to fix our infrastructure," one resident said. "We've got to have adequate drainage."

"You have to have time to fix it," another resident exclaimed. "I support this moratorium wholeheartedly just to give us a breathing room. Just to pause. Just to catch up, so we can be even better."

While the vast majority of Thursday night's speakers backed the moratorium, two in the home building industry signaled they wanted to help find solutions while arguing the moratorium is a step too far.

"A moratorium, or shutting down one industry, I feel is just completely unfair," Bart Waguespack, an Ascension Parish builder said. "I can't think of any other industry in Ascension Parish that has to worry, year after year, about their industry having a moratorium put on it."

Proponents argue the parish is running out of room, and the drainage system is suffering as a result.

"There's very little room left in the parish to detain or retain, like a retention for the water," Kathryn Goppelt, a longtime resident said. "That's one of the things they're going to look at. I think that's really important."

Should the moratorium go into effect, the parish plans to use those 12 months to look at how subdivisions should be built in the future and the fill ordinance, among other proposals. Those attending Thursday's meeting know the move won't be the final step or provide every fix, but they say it's a start.

"Prevent it from getting worse, and perhaps even, get it to where we see less of this happening," Eric Kehn said. "Find some solutions that would prevent people from losing their homes constantly."

Cointment's proposal would not impact municipalities in the parish, like Gonzales, Sorrento, and Donaldsonville. Developments already approved by the parish's planning commission would also not be affected.

Council members will vote on the moratorium June 17. 

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