Gov't

Four Hour Council Meeting Results in Deferral of Development

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By Dave Freneaux

In a probably record-long almost four hour Council meeting the bulk of the time was spent debating drainage plans for a proposed commercial and townhome development.  The developer, long time Central resident Jeff Couvillion of Acadiana Constructors, presented plans for the second phase of the project which is behind Cane's at the Sullivan and Wax Road intersection.  Included in the plan is addtional commercial and office space as well as a gated townhome community of 115 units targeted to give predominately younger home buyers an affordable option to choose to settle in Central.  Several residents in neighboring Huntley place expressed concerns over the concept af a large development very near their homes, but most people who spoke in the public comment period recognized the need for this type of development as Central grows.  Several Central residents in their twenties implored the Council to favorably consider the project so that young people like themselves would have the option of staying in Central as they embark on their careers.
 
Much of the four hour meeting was spent debating this rezoning request, and almost all of that discussion concerned whether the drainage plans for the development were appropriate and would handle the drainage and sewerage needs of the complex.  At close to 10 PM the Council voted to defer the item to give the Mr. Couvillion, concerned area citizens and engineers time to work out the details and agree on what needs to be done to make rezoning acceptable.
 
In other Council business a credit card expenditure policy was adopted (brought to Council by Councilman Messina) and a cooperative agreement providing up to $10,000 to the Cheneyville Fire Department was approved for the purpose of adding more fire hydrants to the northern part of the City of Central (brought to Council by Councilman Moak). The Council also approved resolutions facilitating the Central Fire
Department and Police Departments to receive state financial support for the purpose of purchasing equipment (brought to Council by Councilman Moak).

21 Comments

  1. Captain Obvious

    September 15, 2010 at 11:17 am

    It is good to see the citizens have taken a stand against another possible drainage fiasco in Central by this developer. If anyone questions the council for delaying this to make sure the drainage is properly designed, please come visit the second and third filing in Bellingrath Lakes Subdivision (another Couvillion development) and you will see why. The subdivision is possibly looking at legal action against this developer due to the lakes not built as per the plans (drainage storage) which causes water to back up into the roads. Thanks to this developer Central tax payers can see their money at work starting in the next couple weeks as we pay to fix the roads in Bellingrath Lakes due to his sub-standard drainage.

    • dave

      September 15, 2010 at 11:26 am

      Captain Obvious,

      I had to suspend your post pending on you getting in touch with me. The e-mail address you registered under gets returned as a bad e-mail address. I have to be sure you can back up your claims before i can allow them to be put out in public. Be in touch soon. Dave@CentralSpeaks.com or 262-3730.

  2. mike mannino

    September 15, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Captain,
    What do you have / Message me on facebook, maybe i can help.

  3. Jessie Caster

    September 15, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Dave,
    In referance to the comment you have in your paper about the young people that spoke in favor of the project. I may be wrong but I think the two young men that spoke first either work for or are related to Mr Couvillion, the two or three that spoke after that were local realators. Which as far as I know could be someone that is trying to sell these units. The only one that I heard speak that would fall under the “Young People” would be the lady that worked for the school system. I’m sure you can ask the council to see the meeting minuates to find out for sure. I did not see any thing in your paper about the pond / dranage not being the correct size as has been stated several times at both the Council meetings and the P&Z meetings that they were will over what was required until another engineer was brought in to play last night. Then Mr. Couvillion engineer admitted that the pond was not the size required per spec’s and drawings. I believe he said only 70% of what was required. If the people of Huntley Place had not stood up on this then there is a good chance that everything would have been passed without anyone knowing that it was wrong other than the one’s that put it in. Just so you will know I am 100% for Central’s growth but not in this manor things have to be done correctlly are we all will suffer.

  4. Phantom

    September 15, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    If you haven’t notice Jessie every time you question something like this you are labeled as I quote “CAVEMAN”.

    • dave

      September 15, 2010 at 8:08 pm

      Phantom, As usual, you are just trying to start something. This site moderator has not stooped to insults. Please be productive.

      Dave

  5. Captain Obvious

    September 15, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Jessie,

    Sounds familiar to me. Bellingrath Lakes back lake was built to 7 acres in surface area where it was supposed to be 9 acres. That is about 77% of what was required. Do we see a trend? Also, the pond water level is one foot higher than the plans so the pond does not have the storage capacity as it was designed thus contributing to water in the roads when it rains. Also, the ponds where not built as deep as the plans.

  6. Wade Evans

    September 15, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    BOY,BOY,BOY!!!! HAS BELLINGRATH LAKES FLOODED? “CAVE” PEOPLE, “NIMBY’S”, THERE IS ALWAYS SOMEONE WHO ISN’T HAPPY. ONE OF THE ISSUES IN CENTRAL IS THAT IN ORDER FOR NEW HOMES TO BE AFFORDABLE, YOU MUST BUILD MORE THAT 4.4 PER ACRE. THIS IS A PROJECT THAT IS WELL SUITED FOR THE AREA AND SHOULD BE BUILT. YOUNG PEOPLE WANT TO MOVE TO CENTRAL AND BUY A HOME. THOSE WHO ARE FIGHTING PROBABLY TOLD THEIR KIDS ABOUT BUYING AND NOT RENTING, “DONT THROW YOUR MONEY AWAY”, YET WILL CRY THE LOUDEST WHEN ITS IN THEIR BACKYARD. LET’S MOVE FORWARD WITH SMART GROWTH LIKE THIS. BY THE WAY, I OWN DREAMSCAPES LANDSCAPING RIGHT HERE IN GOOD OL’CENTRAL AND FOR THE LIFE OF ME, I CANT SEEM TO WORK FOR JEFF.

  7. Captain Obvious

    September 15, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Wade,

    When someone pays $300K+ for a house on a lake they expect the neighborhood to be built like it was supposed too. Houses have come close to flooding but we have not had a design storm in the years that the 3rd filing has been open. I worry that when a design storm comes some of the houses are going to flood. Water has come as high as the back porch on some houses. So I guess we all should not worry and just let them cut corners and worry about it later when things do go wrong. Let’s not catch it on the front end.

    I am all for houses being built to where younger families or individuals can purchase them. What I worry about is developments built that tax payers have to foot the bill to correct known mistakes.

  8. Mike Mannino

    September 15, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Reality check Wade. First, I cant think of a worse place to put a high density development due to traffic issues. Back when the property on Wax across from the high school was up for rezoning for a subdivision of less than 4 houses per acre, I was recruited by a member of the P&Z to come speak against it because of potential traffic issues. This development will have a more dramatic affect, on the same road and no improvements have been made since then. The 4 laning of Sullivan is years down the road and will have little affect on relieving this if and when completed. The P&Z board has seen fit to also allow the parcels of this development next to Canes to dump directly onto Sullivan. I see a tremendous traffic problem down the road.

    Secondly, I dont know what your definition of affordable housing is but last night Mr Coulvioun stated these homes will be in the 180-190K range. Hardley starter homes.

    Lastly, somebody better start factoring in school capacity before approving high density housing. You can forget about passing another tax to build more capacity.

    SMART GROWTH ? By whos definition. Thats a term to mask excessive development for infrastructure available.

  9. Wade Evans

    September 16, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Maybe someone who knows can clarify but these lakes are built to use the dirt for the site, and to retain water and release it into surrounding watershed at specified rates so not to overwhelm the existing system.
    The target demographic for these townhouses/ condominiums are not families but the young processionals and “up and comers” so the school issue should be left out of the fray because they have already accounted for future growth. The complaint about this intersection is old. If there are no accidents, you can make it through in one light cycle anytime. The traffic bottles on Wax and backs up from Magnolia bridge. I wish i had time for more but kids, work, life is calling

  10. mike mannino

    September 16, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Wade,
    Thanks for the clarification. If indeed the intent is for young professionals to purchase these, it certainly fits that order. But I think some people believe these will be in the lower price range, say 110-120. I was kinda shocked when Jeff announced the price Tuesday.

    Your comments about the pond are accurrate. I dont think the drainage issue is a show stopper and will be resolved. Just was not ready to be approved Tuesday.

    Lastly, the School situation is not being accounted for. I am close friends with Marty and he has been telling me for a while that people will be shocked when the school opens, its very likely we will have to bring in T buildings. That would not be well received.

  11. taxpayer

    September 16, 2010 at 8:01 am

    I reference to the comments about the school system, wouldn’t it seem a little foolish to build a multi-million dollar complex to CURRENT capacity? If this is the consistent with other public projects then an expansion factor should be in place to accept more students income form. Additionally, the drmographic that this project lends itself to would not typically have the 1.5 children (national average?) everyone keeps talking about. Nobody mentioned the number of school going children in the national average either.
    As for the concerns about traffic, this should be no subject at all. First of all, there are only two times day when that intersection is semi congested and it is only worse than others. Go hang out on College Drive around 500 and see how much you like the intersection now. The traffic engineering is usually submitted and approved to the DOTD. Not CH2 or any entity that could potentially have a conflict of interest. Much like the school system, the DOTD monitors growth and plans and builds for such.

    • dave

      September 16, 2010 at 9:37 am

      Let me make a comment about the new schools. The request for the taxpayers was broken into three separate items on the ballot for a reason. There was little doubt that taxes for a new middle school would get a yes vote. There was less certainty that the money needed to do life and safety repairs to CHS, Bellingrath and Tanglewood would be approved, but we had to ask for it. The money required to build new schools to replace these facilities is FAR greater than the money spent to return them to good useable condition for the forseeable future. Here is where it got difficult. Everyone knew we needed MUCH more space than the taxpayers would give a yes vote on, so, we asked for what the experts said we had at least a SLIM chance of getting approved. In fact, the intermediate school portion of the tax vote passed by only 142 votes. Had we asked for more and been turned down, we would have to remain in Starkey Academy’s building and kept every T-Building we now have. The new schools, according to the projected populations, should be large enough for a number of years, but that will depend ENTIRELY on how fast the population grows.
      In short, no one pretended that we were building schools with excess capacity for years and everyone involved in the process knows that we are even one entire school (lower elementary) short of even beginning to have the facilities we need. Everyone also knows that the high school is at or over capacity now. Fact is, the voters refused to fund the larger complex a year before and sent a strong message that they wanted to see responsible progress. This was that effort. I truly believe we got all of the tax support the voters would allow at the time, as evidenced by the narrow 142 vote margin on the third item on the ballot, the Intermediate School.
      So, like the starving man in need of a steak, potatoes, vegetables and desert, who settles for the steak and the vegetables, we have two solid schools being built, each with pre-planned capacity to be expanded further. Do we need the potatoes and desert (Two more schools)? Yes. Is it unfortunate that we have had to play catch-up using the facilities we inherited from EBR in the sad state they were in? Yes. Are we doing everything we can to build schools as fast as the voters will allow? Yes. T-Buildings at the older schools are just a fact of life for a few more years. They are even possible at the new schools in a few years if the population grows too quickly. So, let’s not feel we have poorly planned for growth when what we have one is to build as much school as we can today. Central does not historically pass new taxes. This was a big step for us.

  12. mike mannino

    September 16, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Totally agree Dave and you are right on target. My main concern is not with the School Syatem, its the approval of housing that the schools will not be able to accomodate. I would like to see some connecting of the dots by P&Z and the Council to realize the domino affect. There are ways to control this by zoning of property to preclude density of over 4 houses per acre to at least slow it down till we can fund another School facilities upgrade. The Wax site could be developed for what it is zoned for, C-1 and not affect the schools. Of course, that increases the traffic problem but at the same time, generates more revenue that could be used for future improvements. Its a delicate balancing act I agree. Some of the issues are hard to quantify but one that is easily measured is the affect on school capacity. Lest we forget, that was our main objective to begin with, quality schools, not devoping an overcrowded city.

  13. Rita

    September 16, 2010 at 10:30 am

    I have read several comments on here about this being built for young couples or families, I haven’t been able to attend any of these meetings because I have to work a little later than most only because I purchased a home in Central with my family, I consider us as a young family trying to make a living and ends meet. I also have heard how much this gentlemen is going to be selling the townhomes for and as a young family there is NO way possible we would be able to afford that. We purchased a home in Central about a 1yr and half ago to get our young daughters in Central Schools, and it was very hard to purchase a home because of the prices, but we found a great home in Huntley Place, that was a about $10,000 less than what these townhomes are going to be sold for and it is hard that we both my and I have to keep full time jobs that pay very well to keep up the morgage on our home. There is NO way young couples or familes we be able to afford these places. Bottom line of this comment is don’t use young families or couples to support this matter!!!

  14. Captain Obvious

    September 16, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Mike,

    Where is the money going to come from to widen the roads for the increased traffic because of the new school. After it is built, the following roads will need to be widen but there is probably nothing built into the school tax to fix these roads: Joor Road (Hooper to past Sullivan Road), Gurney Road (Joor to Sullivan) and Sullivan (Hooper to Joor Road).

    The problem is infrastructure should have been in place before any school was to be built. We already do not have the proper infastructure to support certain portions of our city. Will Central outgrow the sewer system that ties to EBR Parish or will Central have to build a local treatment plant? Who is going to pay for road improvements, developers or tax payers? If tax payers, that will mean another tax increase? Mayor/President Kip Holden is already gearing up for another push to increase taxes in EBR Parish which will probably mean even more taxes for Central. Eventially Central is going to out tax itself.

  15. mike mannino

    September 16, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Captain,
    All very valid questions but the only answer I have heard about the road improvements for the school are that they are considering a roundabout ! GREAT IDEA ! Slow down the traffic to create more congestion. There are no plans to widen Sullivan at that point. Sullivan going south already backs up to nearly Jackson Park starting at about 4 to well after 6. In fairness, the master plan does have requirements for developers aleady laid out to tie into existing roads through proposed roads in new developments. Thats a good thing and well thought out. The sewer issue is coming and all these little treatment individual treatment plants will be forced into tieing into the main line. You know how they do that ? They assess by feet of road frontage for each and every house and you will not believe what kind of bill that is going to create and its not optional. Estimates I heard about 10 years ago when this was first looked at was an average of 10-12k a house. So while we keep voting in taxes and fees, be aware that is lurking out there to hit at some point in time.

    I still stand by what I have said for years about development anywhere. Its a zero sum game. The more you build, the more infrastructure and support you need, the more taxes it requires and at the end of the day, all you have is South Baton Rouge, a congested mess that you couldnt pay me enough to live in and something we all moved out here to get away from. I have yet to have anyone explain to me the benefits of ‘growth” What do we not have in Central that you would like to see ? Does it require a complete change of our lifestyle and environment to acheive ? I think not. I think instead of encouraging growth, we should be discouraging so we maintain the quality of life we all grew up in. The growth will come on its own without soliciting it. The only people that benefit in the end are the developers and real estate agents who either dont live here to start with or pack their bags on move on at some point to destroy another area. Just my opinion.

  16. David Barrow

    September 16, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    As I have stated before, I will only post comments on here to distribute FACTUAL information to the public if I feel that incorrect or incomplete information is being distributed to the public. As a city official, I am not here to start a debate, but merely to present facts. I am not debating the worthiness of this particular development (that is up to the Zoning Commission and Council), but rather to supply information. I welcome any phone calls (261-5255) that anyone may ever have on any matter, including this one.

    In today’s edition of the Central City News, it was pointed out to me that the editor posted several references that CH2MHill approved the Central Square development without addressing the issues (see page 8 of Central City News for two separate references to this and see p. 15 headlines and article reference). After reading these articles, I feel that the article may be misleading in this matter and not giving you all of the information.

    I will dispute the claim that CH2MHill “approved” the development. Most of the claims revolve around drainage issues. In the staff memo sent to P&Z members dated August 20, 2010 and included in the P&Z member’s packets and council member’s packets, the following was stated:

    PLANNING COMMISSION STAFF RECOMMENDATION: …”The Planning Commission Staff recommends to approve this revised Site Plan and requested waiver with the following stipulations:

    a) No building permits for Phase Two improvements shall be issued until the following on-site and off-site drainage issues are resolved:

    1) the public drainage servitude dedicated with Phase One of the development shall be revoked and rededicated as a private drainage servitude in favor of all current and future improvements to Central Square.

    2) All servitudes necessary to facilitate adequate drainage from the development sahll be dedicated as Private Drainage Servitude in favor of all current and future improvements to Central Square. This dedication shall include the retention pond and outfall pipe.

    3) The erosion at the outfall weir shall be corrected and stabalized. A letter from the Project Engineer shall be submitted to the Planning Dept. stating that the erosion has been abated and that the retention pond is functioning as designed.

    CH2MHill Planning Staff (the city’s staff) does not have the authority to approve development projects. They handle the applications and initial reviews and make recommendations. The Zoning Commission and Council approve projects. As can be seen from their RECOMMENDATION, the staff recommended that nothing can be built on this property until these drainage issues are resolved and proof is shown that the retention pond is functioning adequately. The Zoning Commission recommended approval to the council with these stipulations. If these issues are not resolved, then no building permits will be issued and no construction can take place. Therefore, our staff did realize there were some drainage issues that needed to be addressed before any construction would be allowed on the site, and this was discussed at the Zoning Commission meeting on August 26, 2010.

    I hope this leads to some clarification on this matter by providing you with these additional “FACTS” that were not mentioned in the article.

    David Barrow
    Mayor’s Office
    City of Central

  17. David Barrow

    September 16, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    One additional comment on another matter that took place at the council meeting. It was called to my attention that during the credit card expenditure policy discussion, a citizen spoke at the microphone and questioned why I needed a $5,000 Walmart credit card. While I was not at the meeting to answer this question, please afford me the opportunity to address it now.

    First of all, the credit card expenditure policy was NOT brought before the council by myself or the administration. The first I saw of it was when I saw the council agenda. This was brought before the council at the request of the chief of police, who wanted a Visa or Mastercard credit card to be able to purchase items for his department. Neither myself or the mayor or anyone else in the administration has requested a Visa or Mastercard credit card, nor do we want one.

    As for the Walmart card, the Central police department and the city of Central City Hall both have Walmart Community Cards. These are cards issued by Walmart to governments, schools, and other public bodies to be used for charging items purchased at Walmart only. This card cannot be used at Murphy USA for fuel. It can only be used at Walmart stores. City Hall does use this card each month to purchase general supplies at Walmart such as coffee supplies, drinks, paper towels, cleaning supplies, bathroom supplies etc. for use at city hall. Most of these expenses add up to no more than $30 – $40 per month. The police department uses its card for oil changes and supplies at Walmart. Additionally, there is NOT a $5,000 limit on these cards.

    I thank you for the opportunity to explain this matter.

    David

  18. Mike Mannino

    September 16, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Taxpayer,
    I have no faith in DOTD or EBRCP traffic studies nor do I need an engineer to tell me the roads will handle traffic when I am sitting in it for hours everyday. These are the same educated, brilliant people that said that Perkins Road will handle all the traffic from Rouzon on Perkins and allowed a Wal Mart on College Drive.If those 2 roads can handle MORE traffic according to them, there is not a development in the Parish that will ever be turned down based on traffic count. Some of the worst traffic I have seen anywhere I travel. I recentley traveled to Alabama and EVERY exit off the interstate has at least 3 lanes of traffic in each direction on the exit road. Traffic jams were non-existent and I never had to slow down once until I reached La. We in our infinite wisdom, allow major developments on 2 lane roads and only after traffic becomes unbearable do we address. Its insanity. Sullivan at Wax is already terrible, Sullivan at Hooper is worse. Add the Schools and this development and I dont even want to think about it. Given that, the DOTD and EBRCP “studies” have no credibility with me.

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