St. James to hold hearings on development master plan

St. James Parish will hold informational meetings for the public this month to discuss a proposed master plan that is intended to guide the parish’s growth and development for the next two decades.

The Planning Commission approved a draft of the plan last month. Discussions on it began in 2008 and were followed by the creation of a committee of local residents to help work on the draft.

One of the main issues the plan addresses is how to mix residential and industrial areas, Blaise Gravois, assistant director of operations for the parish, said.

Gravois, who served as volunteer chairman of the committee that first took up the plan, said there’s a need to plan for complementary industrial and residential areas as the parish continues to draw more industrial growth.

Another issue addressed in the plan, Gravois said, is preserving the parish’s historical sites, which include Oak Alley, Laura and St. Joseph plantations and the Manresa House of Retreats, a Jesuit retreat center.

The goals include increasing job opportunities and reversing what has been a decline in the parish’s population and tax base.

According to the parish’s Home Rule Charter, a master plan would need to be adopted in an ordinance by the parish council, which requires at least two public hearings first.

The January informational meetings will be held before those public hearings are scheduled to acquaint residents with the details of the plan, Gravois said.

If the informational meetings are well attended and the commission gets a lot of new input, Gravois said, changes could be made before the plan moves toward the public hearings and adoption of an ordinance.

Six informational meetings have been scheduled in January and two more will be added at a future date.

The meetings now scheduled will be:

Jan. 7, 10 a.m. to noon, council chambers of the Vacherie Courthouse Annex, 2631 La. 20, Vacherie.

Jan. 8, 10 a.m. to noon, council chambers, second floor, of the Convent Courthouse, 5800 La. 44, Convent.

Jan. 9, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., council chambers of the Vacherie Courthouse Annex.

Jan. 22, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Lutcher Senior Center, 2631 Louisiana Ave., Lutcher.

Jan. 23, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., council chambers of the Convent Courthouse.

Jan. 28, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., council chambers of the Vacherie Courthouse Annex.