With business flourishing, home-based Brusly mechanic seeks zoning variance

The West Baton Rouge Parish Council deferred action Thursday on a rezoning request to allow an auto mechanic shop in a Brusly residential area on South River Road.

Paul Burch told the council that his part-time home mechanic work had become a full-time job and asked the council for the rezoning classification.

Various council members expressed support for Burch and noted how clean his shop and yard are, but council member Chris “Fish” Kershaw said a zoning change would allow any commercial businesses to locate there in the future.

“Someone might want to put a bar there after you’re gone,” Kershaw said.

Council members Gary Spillman and Barry Hugghins floated the idea that the rules governing variances for home businesses could be tailored specifically for Burch’s property, but parish planning officer Kevin Durbin said that would need to be discussed by the parish executive office and its legal department.

Durbin said another choice would be to pass a new ordinance allowing a special-use permit across all zones for mechanic shops.

The action was deferred because Parish President Riley “Pee Wee” Berthelot was absent from the meeting.

In another matter, council member Phil Porto told the panel he was nearly late to the meeting because he was caught in slow-moving northbound La. 1 traffic.

Porto said La. 1’s left lane should flow steadily, averting the daily traffic snarls on the Interstate 10 Mississippi River Bridge into Baton Rouge. Porto said some drivers ultimately heading to Baton Rouge slow down traffic by remaining in the left northbound lane.

“Some cars headed for the right hand lane (to Baton Rouge) are cheating,” Porto said. “When they get close to the Intracoastal Bridge, they’re trying to move over and slowing the traffic down. I witnessed three cars coming off the service road crossing the right lane, getting into the left lane, crossing the Intracoastal Bridge and then taking a right to go under the bridge, go down to the boat landing to turn around and come back to go to Baton Rouge.

“We can solve this problem with a little common sense and some highway striping. The left lane should not be forced to slow down.”

Spillman said the council has complained regularly to the state Department of Transportation and Development.

“We told them that we would buy paint and we’ll even paint it ourselves,” he said.

Spillman added that parish leadership has a meeting scheduled with DOTD the first week of September.

In another matter, Eddie Payne III, the man whom the parish named a new street connecting William and Lee Park and Oregon Avenue, thanked the council for the honor.

It took the council two tries to name the street. At the July 24 meeting, the council voted 3-2 with three abstentions in favor of the Payne name. However, the council learned at its Aug. 14 meeting that a 3-2 vote was the equivalent of a no vote under its Home Rule Charter.

The council ultimately voted 7-2 to name the street Eddie Payne III Boulevard.

“Thank you for naming the street after me,” said Payne, a local pastor who has worked on behalf disadvantaged children. “People are usually honored when they’re deceased.”