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Even after intense pushback, EBR Planning Commission reverses course, approves Zachary subdivision

3 months 4 weeks 1 day ago Tuesday, January 18 2022 Jan 18, 2022 January 18, 2022 10:37 PM January 18, 2022 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - After deferrals and even denials, a 946-lot subdivision just outside the city limits of Zachary was approved Tuesday in the face of widespread opposition.

The Trivento subdivision would sit at the intersection of Old Scenic Highway and Groom Road. Once again, both residents and city leaders implored the commission to deny the project.

"We know that we do not have, currently in place, schools, fire, protection, police, infrastructure," Laura Freeman, an appointee to the Zachary Planning and Zoning Commission, said.

Freeman and her colleagues had previously denied the project.

Other city leaders, including Zachary Police Chief David McDavid and Scott Devillier, superintendent of Zachary Schools, spoke out against the development.

"Today, we can't afford that," Devillier said. "There's no way that we can house that many students."

The commissioners tasked with voting on the project Tuesday deferred it last month after denying an earlier plan in August.

This time, developers altered the specs hoping to gain support from those who previously opposed the effort.

"[We plan] to remove 40 residential lots and replace them with three tracts to be donated by the developer for a fire station, a police station and a school," Derek Murphy, who represents the developer, said. "We feel that we have gone above and beyond what is required to mitigate these concerns."

For most, that was not good enough to quell concerns.

"Providing property doesn't build a school and doesn't staff it perpetually," District 1 Metro Councilman Brandon Noel, who previously served on the Zachary City Council, said. "Providing property for a fire department doesn't build a fire department and staff it perpetually. Those are the big dollar expenses."

District 2 Councilwoman Chauna Banks, who represents the council on the Planning Commission, serves the area where the subdivision would be built. She voted to approve the project, saying she wasn't able to substantiate the claims made by Zachary stakeholders and some of her peers about potential problems the subdivision poses.

"Because this is my district and it's not [yours], you don't know what's going on," Banks said.

After a motion to deny the project failed, commissioners voted 5-4 to approve it, citing the land donation and plans to build the nearly 1000 homes through many years, over several filings.

Commissioners who expressed hesitation warned that even if the subdivision is built over many years, it will take many years to add needed infrastructure.

"If we were to start today to modify and expand the road that supports this subdivision, it would take us four years before it's completed, if everything went flawless," Kelvin Hill, the mayor's representative on the Planning Commission, said. "I don't think that should be lost on us. If we were to have to go build a new school system, a modified school building, it would take three to four years to get there."

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