St. James to consider land-use plan

The St. James Parish Council has set two public hearings on a proposed land-use plan that some officials say would reduce conflicts between residents and industry, promote affordable housing and preserve historic sites all while encouraging economic development.

The hearings on the proposed ordinance are scheduled at 6 p.m. March 19 in Vacherie and 6 p.m. April 2 in Convent.

Parish Councilmen Jimmy Brazan and Ken Brass voted Wednesday against introducing the proposed land-use ordinance, both saying they believe a more updated version was to have been included in the draft.

The council, nevertheless, voted 5-2 to introduce the proposed in order to set the public hearings.

Brass encouraged the councilmen to review the updated land-use plan and said he had issues with the proposed plan’s nonconformity clauses and vested property right section.

The parish has no land-use plan, said parish spokesperson Melissa Wilkins.

The St. James Parish Planning Commission created a committee to review the future master plan and, in turn, helped create the proposed land use plan.

On Nov. 20, the Planning Commission endorsed the future land use plan for adoption by the Parish Council.

The proposed master plan is still in draft form.

The proposed land-use plan calls for 10 categories: residential/future industrial, residential growth, commercial, commercial/residential mixed, industrial, agriculture, recreation, schools, fire department and water and wetlands.

Two other categories involve Lutcher and Gramercy, two municipalities governed by their own ordinances.

The land-use plans also require a 2-mile buffer zone around schools and historic plantations and churches.

The proposed land-use plan also dictates what the Planning Commission must examine when considering approval for land use.

These considerations include: the impact of proposed use, its public benefits, the physical and environmental impacts and the vested property rights and other constitutional protections enjoyed by the proponent of the proposed use.

Brazan said after the meeting he was concerned with existing industrial companies being able to sue the parish as a result of the plan’s nonconformity section.

“I want to make a good plan that can hold the test of the court,” he said.