Jefferson working on plan for boom

Convinced that the impending widening of the Huey P. Long Bridge will spark a residential and commercial boom in western Jefferson Parish, parish officials are trying to get a plan in place to guide that development to avoid some of the mistakes made in the past.

In November, the Jefferson Parish Council unanimously approved the creation of the West Bank Master Plan committee to serve as an advisory board guiding the projected growth of Avondale, Waggaman and Bridge City. That eight-member board will review the master plan as it is created by Digital Engineering Inc. and the University of New Orleans.

In his recent state-of-the-parish address, Parish President John Young called the bridge widening one of the most important projects in the parish’s history. Much of that area is undeveloped land, with a smattering of residential subdivisions. The area does have the TPC Louisiana and NOLA Motorsports. There also are plans for a new office park and the new site of the Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy.

However, there is plenty of room for expansion. Young expects the six-lane bridge to boost traffic and eventually eliminate some psychological barriers people have about coming to the West Bank.

“It can eliminate the division between east and west,” Young said.

Councilman Mark Spears said parish officials understand that if Jefferson Parish is going to grow, it’s going to grow on the West Bank. But, it’s important that the parish guide that growth so that it becomes a true benefit and not a headache, said Spears, whose district includes those areas. That means proper zoning that is developed with a clear vision.

“You only get one chance at it,” said Spears, who made two appointments to the committee. “This is pretty much the only place that Jefferson Parish can grow.”

Councilman Christopher Roberts said that while the sheer size of undeveloped land is enticing, the parish has some challenges in that area such as traffic control, drainage and wetlands mitigation. There are discussions about carving out a new community in the area, and petitioning the federal government for another ZIP code.

Roberts said politicians have learned from mistakes made in developments on the east bank about the need to regulate density and create separation between residential and commercial properties. There already has been at least one complaint about noise from the NOLA Motorsports facility, and its owners are looking into adding sound dampening equipment to the facility.

“There’s a lot we’ve learned over the years,” said Roberts, who expects Digital Engineering and UNO to have completed a full survey of the area by the spring. “We feel that the growth is going to occur there, and therefore we want to have the framework in place.”

Councilman Ricky Templet said that even though his district is well away from the boundaries of the master plan, he’s watching the proceedings with great interest. That area has the potential to be a job creator, he said, and new jobs benefit everyone in Jefferson Parish.

“We’re a bedroom community, and the more we can create industry and jobs, the more our people can stay home and work,” Templet said.

“Whatever affects one end of Jefferson Parish affects the other.”