City Council denies appeal for subdivision development

The Natchitoches City Council voted to uphold the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision at its Monday night meeting, Sept. 13 regarding the denial of a subdivision application by Developer David Strange of Rowanoak Development, LLC of Jackson, Miss. The vote was three (Harrington, Smith, Neilsen) to two (Washington, Petite) in favor of upholding the unanimous denial decision rendered by the P&Z Commission at its Aug. 10 meeting.

Strange was to construct the Glendale Subdivision and Community Center on St. Maurice Lane with 36 lots, each 60 feet wide. Other local landowners and developers have presented projects to the Planning and Zoning Commission in the past for various housing developments on St. Maurice Lane, which was denied for the same reasons the Glendale Subdivision was denied.

Strange said Natchitoches has an aging housing stock and a housing shortage, which drives up rental rates. The 3 and 4 bedroom homes, valued at around $250,000 would be rented for $850 per month with renters having the option to assume the mortgage after the first 15 years.

Larry Turner of Alexandria attended the meeting to let the Council know that Strange has built three subdivisions around Alexandria and they have all been beneficial to the area.

The property owners would pay insurance and taxes for the first 15 years. An independent company would be contracted to handle lawn care during this time frame. A full time maintenance man would be available for home repairs as well.

“We started this project over a year ago,” said Strange. “A lot of due diligence has been done on our part to get us to this point, so what’s the problem?”

He answered residents’ concerns and said the opposition to the proposed subdivision was a case of nimbyism. NIMBY stands for “Not In My Backyard.” As it relates to housing developments, the abbreviation refers to residents who broadly oppose new housing construction in their communities.

“The planning and zoning commission did not enforce the law, he added. “Instead they took the law into their own hands. Due process was violated by the planning commission. This Council has the legal duty to reverse their decision.”

As for the opposition, the latest count had around 1,097 petitions received against the project.

Ralph Ingram said that the drainage system for east Natchitoches was designed and built in the 1950s and that it was built for agricultural purposes only. He felt that because the Council has turned down a number of subdivisions in the past on the basis of poor drainage, that the proposed subdivision needed to be turned down too for the same reason.

“I’ve heard so many complaints and it’s very negative,” said Council member Rosemary Washington. “It’s not about the subdivision, it’s about who’s gonna be in the subdivision, the people. We’re coming here with nonsense about drainage. We need to come together as one and really think about this.”

Council Member at Large, Betty Sawyer Smith, said there are drainage problems all across the City of Natchitoches. Her main concern is people being able to afford the $850 rent.

“I’d love to see people be able to afford their own home,” she said. “How can we grow if we don’t accept changes. We want to attract people to Natchitoches but if they have nowhere to live they won’t be coming to Natchitoches.”

Council Member Eddie Harrington said he’s for development in the City, but it has to fit the character of the area, which the proposed subdivision does not.

Council Member Dale Nielsen said the City has failed to prepare for development in a couple different areas and he hopes that the drainage issues will finally be addressed. His belief is that it’s wrong to build anything as substantial as the proposed subdivision until the drainage issues of the area are addressed. His other concern was the need for improvements to St. Maurice Lane to make it better equipped to handle the increased traffic a subdivision will add to an already busy street.

“Drainage, like it or not, is a scary thing,” he said. “The City needs to do what it needs to do. If you want to bring development in, you need to spend the money and get the drainage corrected. We’ve been consistent with other applications not because we didn’t want the growth but because of potential drainage issues and the street as well.”

Agenda Items Included:
SPECIAL RECOGNITION:
Maddox Johnson, Jr., – Division winner in the 12U Jr. Home Run Derby Finals.

PROCLAMATIONS:
Declare September 2021 As Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month In The City Of Natchitoches (Accepted by: Leah Lentz)

Declare September 16, 2021 As “Mike Williams Day” In The City Of Natchitoches.

Declare August 28, 2021 As “Sylvia Morrow Day” In The City Of Natchitoches.

PLANNING & ZONING – INTRODUCTION:
Amend Ordinance No. 64 Of 2001 By Changing Zoning Classification Of Property Described As Follows: Lot 7, Block “A” of Keegan Subdivision (223 Scarborough Avenue)

ORDINANCES – INTRODUCTION:
Award The Bid For A Forklift/Telehandler For Purchasing Warehouse (Bid No. 0638)

Award The Bid For A 47’ Sheave Height Digger Truck For The Utility Department (Bid No. 0639)

Award The Bid For Pulse Closing Transfer Switches. (Bid No. 0640)

Rename The City Street Currently Delineated As Pauline Street To Burt Clark Street In Honor Of Mr. Burt Clark’s Life And Years Of Service To The City, Parish And Community.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:
The next scheduled City Council meeting will be Monday, September 27, 2021


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