CONVENT — St. James Parish’s proposed master plan, which could direct parish growth over the next 20 years, moved closer to adoption.
The parish assistant director of operations, Blaine Gravois, asked councilmen to adopt the proposed draft and offered a few highlights of the plan during Wednesday’s Parish Council meeting. The Parish Planning Commission met Wednesday and approved the draft, said Melissa Wilkins, parish spokeswoman.
Parish officials considered creating a master plan in 2008, but the plan wasn’t finalized until March 2011 and released by the 19-member St. James Parish Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee after months of public meetings and hearings, Gravois said.
The proposed master plan seeks to encourage economic development and improve infrastructure, reduce land use conflicts between residents and industry, promote affordable housing and preserve historic sites, said Gravois, who also served as the steering committee chairman. The proposed master plan also revealed some interesting insight about current demographic trends in the parish.
All of the 278 residential construction permits issued in the past five years were issued to the eastern and southern areas of the parish, Gravois said. No permits were issued to the already-industrialized northern and western portions of the parish.
The master plan’s future land use map directs industrial growth away from these residential areas and shows two-mile buffers zones shielding schools from encroaching industry.
Of the two schools in the northern part of the parish, Romeville Elementary has already closed due to low enrollment and parish school officials had discussed closing Fifth Ward Elementary in St. James.
During the meeting Wednesday, the Rev. Marshall Cooper asked the Parish Council not to allow South Louisiana Methanol to build a plant next to the parish’s Fifth District Park in Welcome, citing health and safety concerns. Angele Rodrigue, Parish Council secretary, read five letters from Paulina-area residents who oppose Wolverine Terminal LLC moving nearby.
The proposed master plan does not promote zoning — what Councilman Jason Amato called “the z-word,” Gravois said.
“It’s always been titled as a smart-growth plan,” Gravois said, adding the “z-word” was not in the plan.
Before the Parish Council will vote on the plan, there will be several informational meetings for residents. The dates of the meetings have not been set, Parish Council Chairman Jimmy Brazan said.
Additionally, Gravois was asked to make the same presentation on the master plan to the Parish Council when it meets again on the West Bank and to the school board.
In other action Wednesday:
ADOPTS 2014 BUDGET: The Parish Council adopted the $62.1 million budget for the 2014 fiscal year. Projected revenues for the parish’s fiscal year 2014, which starts Jan. 1, are expected to reach $61.4 million while expenditures are forecasted to reach $62.1 million.
Parish President Timmy Roussel has said an “industrial renaissance” in south Louisiana has helped the parish’s sales tax revenue increase over the years. Sales and use taxes revenue is budgeted at $7.66 million, a $330,500 increase from 2013, according to the proposed budget.