Growth spurs city to eye new rules

Youngsville is considering new regulations to guide commercial and residential development in a once-tiny municipality that has seen its population grow by more than 400 percent over the past two decades.

“I think we have a good city now, and we want to keep it that way,” Youngsville Mayor Wilson Viator said.

Youngsville has no zoning laws, and there are only a handful of regulations on new developments.

“Basically, you can build whatever you want wherever you want,” the mayor said.

What’s under consideration by the city is not zoning, he said, but rather what’s called a “land-use” plan.

Conventional zoning laws designate certain areas of a city for certain types of developments — industrial, residential, commercial.

Viator said the land-use plan would not specify what should be built where, but the plan would impose requirements for buffers and green space when a new development conflicts with what’s already been built.

Viator said Carencro’s land-use plan will serve as a model for what Youngsville is considering.

Carencro implemented a land-use plan in 2009, and Lafayette city-parish government adopted a land-use plan this year for rural areas of the parish.

Those plans generally call for buffer space and sometimes greenery and a fence to separate new developments from existing ones, depending on the nature of the development.

There are minimal requirements when building a new home next to an existing one, but the buffering requirements would be much more extensive, for example, for a proposed pipe yard next to an existing subdivision.

“As it gets worse, the buffer gets larger,” Carencro Mayor Glenn Brasseaux said.

The buffering requirements for some developments, such as junk yards or industrial facilities, are so great that the land-use law effectively limits those types of businesses to areas of the city where there is enough space to build the business and maintain the buffer.

“You are not telling them they can’t do anything. They just have to have enough property,” Brasseaux said. “It kind of protects everybody involved.”

Youngsville has hired the same two people who developed the Carencro plan — architect Lynn Guidry and University of Louisiana at Lafayette architecture professor Thomas Sammons.

Viator said he hopes another component of the plan will address what he sees as a problematic trend toward dense subdivisions with small lot sizes.

“We are getting an abnormal amount of small lots,” he said.

The mayor said there are no plans for a prohibition of subdivisions with small lots but he hopes to encourage more variety.

“We don’t want to be stuck with just that,” Viator said.

He said the current time line calls for having a land-use plan before the City Council by the spring.

The effort comes as Youngsville and other areas of southern Lafayette Parish continue to see strong population growth.

Growth in southern Lafayette Parish in general has continued to outpace growth in other areas of the parish, and Youngsville has seen its population climb from 1,195 residents in 1990 to 8,105 in 2010, according to the most-recent census figures.