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Development code, ordinance changes likely, EBR drainage director tells frustrated residents

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BATON ROUGE - Speaking before a packed house of fed-up residents Tuesday night, Fred Raiford, transportation and drainage director for East Baton Rouge, hinted changes to the parish's development code and related ordinances are coming following May flooding.

Raiford attended Councilwoman Denise Amoroso's district meeting to field questions and explain projects, some already underway and others soon to start, aimed at preventing flooding.

The standing-room-only crowd spent the majority of the two-hour meeting expressing flooding frustrations to Raiford.

"A lot of us are afraid we're going to be flooded very soon if something isn't done," Phyllis Immethun said.

Other residents came wanting to learn all the parish was working on the avoid a repeat of the May 17 storm.

"I'd be aggravated if my house had flooded, and by the grace of God it hasn't," Tommy Milazzo said. "It just seems like things are moving way slower than they need to be."

Raiford, as he has done previously, acknowledged some drainage work and maintenance have previously been neglected.

"Do we have maintenance issues," Raiford rhetorically asked. "Yes we do. I'm not going to disagree. I'm not going to back off from that."

However, he also highlighted the work, which includes cleaning and clearing storm drains, that's already started as part of a $20 million package approved last week.

During his presentation, Raiford pointed out and the federal dollars he has secured and is still attempting to corral for drainage projects, but many residents were more interested in talking about development and any potential moratorium.

No moratoriums have been introduced in East Baton Rouge, but the Metro Council has discussed what that process could even look like, should one be proposed in the future. Some residents expressed their support for following other parishes in pausing construction.

In response, Raiford suggested some ordinance and code changes related to development are likely coming.

"I think we're going to make changes to our rules and regulations," Raiford said. "That is going to take place. It will be something, I believe, will be very beneficial to property owners."

Exactly what those changes are, Raiford didn't say, but added experts would be helping craft any updates.

At one point, while on the topic of development, Raiford made it clear he aligned with residents on one big point.

"I don't think we ought to be building [in] some areas of this parish," Raiford said to applause. I'm not going to disagree with that."

Even though that was met with support, some residents said Raiford's words were simply not enough, instead, demanding to see results and have their voices heard.

"I understand Fred has to be involved with the big picture: the drainage, and the tributaries, and the canals and all that, but someone has to watch out for the neighborhoods," Immethun said.

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