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Ascension Parish president vetoes controversial post-flood regulations for new developments

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UPDATE: Thursday night council members failed to override Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa's veto for post-flood regulations by a vote of 7-3.

ASCENSION PARISH - Parish President Kenny Matassa has vetoed a set of restrictive new regulations that would dictate how foundations for new homes are built.

The regulations, passed by the parish council earlier this month, would limit the amount of dirt-fill used in elevating houses to three feet while requiring them to be built two feet above the base flood elevation. Pier and beam style construction would be required for houses that can't be elevated to that level with just dirt-fill.

In a letter addressed to the parish council, Matassa said he made the decision "after considerable analysis and discussion with staff and consultants concerning the implementation and impacts of the amendments."

Matassa cites three reasons behind his decision: the ordinance does not establish a baseline for parts of  the parish; it would result in reduced flood insurance premiums for some, but not parish-wide; and clarifications are needed to enforce the new policy.

According to council Chairwoman Terri Casso, the veto was unexpected.

"We made an effort to avoid a veto with compromise, and we thought we were there. That is why the veto came as a surprise to us," said Casso.

With a little more than a week before they get a chance to vote to overturn Matassa's veto, some council members were looking for a compromise, but they do not have much time.

"Hopefully, we’ll have that opportunity and we won’t have to start this process again. One year in Ascension Parish means alot of houses are built," said council man Bill Dawson.

While councilmembers argued that the regulations would ensure new homes stayed above water, a concern at the forefront of minds after the 2016 flood, residents argued that it would only drive property costs up.

The new regulations would have gone into effect in about three months, and would not have affected preliminary plats approved in that time period.

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