M.P. Evans property rezoning in Gonzales put on hold

A group hoping to turn more than 340 acres along Interstate 10 and La. 44 from a cattle farm into the next major Gonzales development must provide city officials with more information before it’ll be allowed to proceed.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission tabled a rezoning request Monday from the estate of the late Merritt P. Evans Jr. and Ruth Walker Evans that could turn the tract into a commercial and mixed-use residential development.

Commission members asked the estate’s representatives to provide more information about their plans.

The unanimous decision of the five-member commission came after more than an hour of public discussion, in which about a dozen people spoke in opposition of the rezoning request.

About 50 people attended the meeting, most of whom made it clear they are opposed to rezoning the Evans property. The property was annexed into the city in March 2012 and has the city’s most-restrictive residential zoning.

The residents speaking in opposition, who said they reside south of the city in the parish’s unincorporated area near Burnside and the Pelican Point subdivision, listed traffic problems along La. 44 and a desire for the development to blend in with the surrounding area among the reasons for their displeasure.

Wendi Boone, who lives on Brewerton Road off of La. 941, said she knew M.P. Evans and how much he loved the land on which he raised cattle.

She said Evans always told her the land and cattle would remain as long as he lived, and she’s afraid the community will change for the worse after the development.

“I wish Mr. M.P. could have lived forever,” she said.

The development plan originally called for residential, commercial and industrial development on the 100-plus acres fronting I-10 as well as commercial and apartment complexes along La. 44 and La. 941.

About 127 acres was set aside for single-family residential development.

Changes were made to the original plans after hearing previous concerns voiced by residents and city and parish officials, according to Gary Binns, a real estate broker representing the estate.

The industrial portion of the development was changed to commercial and the residential portion fronting the interstate was removed, he said.

The group is willing to listen to concerns and suggestions, but is determined to move forward with the development, Binns said.

“It’s pretty right now with cows and pecans, but the reality is it can’t stay that way,” Binns said.

It was clear Monday night the development has its detractors, though.

Opponents said it would only add to traffic woes on La. 44 that they called “atrocious” and a “nightmare.”

They said there are better ways to blend in with the existing residences along La.
941 than bringing a retail development and apartment complex.

“The people out there absolutely don’t want a development like this,” said Theresa Robert, a community activist who lives on La. 44.

After hearing the concerns about the project, several commissioners said they weren’t prepared to move forward, asking project developers for more information about their plans.

“We have absolutely not enough information in front of us tonight to make any type of decision,” said Frank Cagnalotti, the commission’s chairman.