Ascension planners eye bold changes in subdivison designs

The Ascension Parish Planning Commission is mulling over proposals calling for sweeping new subdivision design regulations that would require parks, change the way housing density is calculated and create a mix of lot sizes.

Planning Director Ricky Compton went over some early revisions of those and other concepts Wednesday night with the commission after feedback from his staff and an unnamed engineer following an initial presentation last month.

Compton asserted that the changes, if ultimately approved by the Parish Council, would improve the way the parish is developed as a wave of planned industrial construction in the Mississippi River corridor results in new residential demand in the parish.

“This is a huge deal. This is a game changer, and it is going to set the standard, a bar for subdivision developments in this parish,” Compton told the commissioners at the Parish Courthouse Annex in Gonzales.

“We had discussions earlier: ‘Do you want to keep allowing the status quo for the next 10,000 lots that are going to be built in this parish, or do you want to raise the bar?’ ”

Commissioner Gasper Chifici commended the plans so far, saying the ideas are unusual for Ascension but not elsewhere. He asked Compton to provide examples of subdivisions in other communities that employ some of the concepts proposed, in particular the mix of lot sizes. The plan calls for at least three different lot sizes in any development.

“You want to show developers here that this can be done, and it can be profitable for them,” Chifici said.

The proposal, for example, would exclude from housing density calculations wetlands, rights of way, roads, detention ponds and other development features where houses cannot be built and put a three-unit per acre cap on developments.

The parish currently calculates density based on the total acreage of a site. Density is set by the area’s zoning.

Another concept would require parks at a rate of 6 acres per 1,000 people. The plan would require some minimum investment in those parks but grant reductions in park acreage if a developer agrees to add more park amenities.

Other concepts would require tree plantings and limit the depth of fill in the 100-year flood plain, a key factor in low-lying Ascension.

But Compton also said he would be willing for give-and-take on the concepts and hoped for public interest in the plan.

“You know I do want some negative Nellies to come out and throw some bombs at this plan because until we do know what everyone’s complaints are, we don’t know what the real solutions are,” Compton said.

As a middle ground on parks, for example, Compton suggested the plan might allow 50 percent of the recreation area to include wetlands and detention ponds as long as the other half is publicly accessible.

He suggested the commission might be ready for a public hearing in 60 days, and possibly another if needed afterward, but he would like to see the idea through the Parish Council by the third quarter of the year.