West Baton Rouge housing growth nears record levels

West Baton Rouge Parish is headed toward a residential growth spurt this year it hasn’t experienced since post-Hurricane Katrina.

Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, the parish issued 187 single-family residential building permits, according to data released by West Baton Rouge’s Office of Community Development and Planning.

Government officials expect that number to tip the 200 mark by year’s end if the current trend continues.

Should the parish issue more than 220 residential permits by Dec. 31, it will break its 2006 post-Katrina record for the number of single-family construction permits issued in a year.

“We’ll have to issue about 17 a month in November and December to break the Katrina record,” Parish President Riley “PeeWee” Berthelot said. “We may be a little short, but it has still been a very good year.”

A majority of West Baton Rouge’s growth since 2000 has been concentrated in the unincorporated north end of the parish — including the Erwinville and Rosehill communities — and in the towns of Addis and Brusly.

Since 2000, 834 single-family residential permits were issued by the parish for new construction in the northern part of the parish and 646 and 222 in Addis and Brusly, respectively, according to the permit data.

“These young subdivisions we have here are really starting to mature,” Addis Mayor David Toups said. “We’re seeing a mix of both young and older families, a lot of plant workers, too. We’re happy to see all these people moving here. As the town grows, our sales tax grow.”

So far this year, the parish has issued 72 residential building permits for the town of Addis and 26 for Brusly, according to the parish’s permit data.

Some of Brusly’s residential growth can be attributed to the aggressive development of its popular Orleans West subdivision while Addis’ Sugar Mill community has been driving its growth numbers.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in subdivision activity,” said Kevin Durbin, director of West Baton Rouge’s Office of Community Development and Planning. “We issued 16 permits in Brusly just in September and about 15 for Sugar Mill.”

The people moving into those homes are primarily from Iberville and East Baton Rouge parishes, Berthelot said.

Durbin and Berthelot credit the parish’s top-performing school system as one of the factors behind the parish’s residential growth spurt.

The West Baton Rouge Parish school system earned an 86.5 performance score — a B grade — in the Louisiana Department of Education’s 2013 District Performance report. The surrounding parishes, Pointe Coupee, East Baton Rouge and Iberville, all received C grades from the state this year.

Recently announced plant expansions at Dow Chemical Co. in Plaquemine and Shintech sites in Plaquemine and Addis are also driving the parish’s home construction boom.

The daily traffic congestion along La. 1, from plant employees crossing the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge and Mississippi River Bridge into East Baton Rouge Parish, is the final factor in the residential growth equation, parish officials said.

Durbin said many plant workers are opting to live in West Baton Rouge Parish to shorten their daily commutes.

For the past several years, Berthelot has worked to get state funding to build a connector road between La. 1 and La. 415 to help dilute the afternoon traffic flow along La. 1.

“We are getting an awful lot of traffic on this side of the (Mississippi River) bridge. Something is going to have to be done,” Berthelot said. “As these plants continue to expand we’ll need to improve our infrastructure to keep pace with that.”