Zoning vote costs Gonzales Crawford Electric project

City officials have discovered a zoning change they thought had passed at Monday’s City Council meeting for the construction of an electric supply company on South Burnside did not actually have a majority vote.

As a result, the project is dead in the water and the developer said he has no intention of ever pursuing a project within the city limits of Gonzales again.

“They can’t wait on the city. They have to look at another location,” said Mayor Barney Arceneaux of the Crawford Electric company, the company that planned to build the facility.

Arceneaux said representatives of the Louisiana Municipal Association contacted him Tuesday, after news reports on Monday’s council detailed the vote tally on the zoning request for the Crawford project, which fell short of the required three-member majority of the five-member council.

At Monday night’s meeting, councilmen Kenny Matassa and Kirk Boudreaux voted yes for the change from a C-1 to C2 zone, Timothy Vessel voted no, Terance Irvin recused himself and Gary Lacombe abstained.

“It was a little bit confusing, but we made a mistake,” Arceneaux said.

The statute cited is from the Lawrason Act, Louisiana Revised Statute 33:406 (A)(1),which reads, “No ordinance shall be adopted except by an affirmative vote of a majority of the members of the board.”

A zoning change is an ordinance. In the case of the five-member City Council, that would mean three yes votes to pass an ordinance.

The way the vote was taken on Monday night, “left a 2-1 vote,” said John Gallagher, assistant director of governmental affairs with the Louisiana Municipal Association.

LMA, he said, provides information, but not legal advice, to towns and cities.

Arceneaux said he met this week with Lacombe to see if there was a possibility he might vote yes, instead of abstaining. If so, Arceneaux said, a special meeting would have been called to vote again.

However, Lacombe replied said he wouldn’t vote for the project, Arceneaux said, so there was no point in calling a special meeting.

“The concern is, is it spot zoning,” Lacombe said. “I need some clear direction on spot zoning.”

Lacombe, along with councilmen Timothy Vessel and Terance Irvin, favor maintaining C-1 zoning.

Arceneaux said at Monday’s council meeting that a consultant with the Center for Planning Excellence of Baton Rouge had recently seen the site on South Burnside and had said that C-2 zoning needed for the electric supply company would be appropriate.

The Centers for Planning Excellence is doing a needs assessment for the city for a new land use master plan for the city,

Jimmy Boyce III, of PHL Investments, in Gonzales had planned to purchase five acres of the property, owned by the PriceCo company, on South Burnside to build and lease a warehouse and distribution center to the Crawford Electric company, an electric supply company.

“It’s over,” Boyce said of the project.

He added, “I have no desire and will not do any development in the city of Gonzales as long as we have this type of council.”

Boyce, who said he’s a lifelong resident of Ascension Parish and grew up in the city limits, owns six businesses in the parish, two of them in the city limits.

“Any development I do will be in the parish, out of the city limits,” Boyce said.

Damain Kerek, branch manager with Crawford, said, “We are disappointed. I don’t think it’s about Crawford.”

Kerek said that from discussions he had recently with councilmen Lacombe, Irvin and Vessel about the project, he felt the proposed Crawford project here was in danger.

“We’ve been investigating a second site for two weeks. In business, we have to expedite as quickly as we can,” he said.

“We don’t have the luxury of time” like governments seem to, he said.