Corridor zoning plan presented

Zoning, long considered a politically dangerous word in Livingston Parish, is proposed for the parish’s Interstate 12 corridor in a master plan that goes before the Parish Council this week.

Lack of land-use regulations makes development riskier, more uncertain and more contentious, according to the 112-page plan, which will be the subject of a public hearing before the council Thursday night.

Lack of predictability about adjacent land use discourages good businesses that would provide needed jobs and sales tax revenue, the plan says.

As long as a developer provides buffer zones, “the parish has no ability to deny any land use, anywhere in the parish,” according to the plan put together for the parish by Winston Associates, of Boulder, Colo.

The plan identifies the corridor in which I-12 and U.S. 190 run parallel each other as the optimum location for future economic growth.

It suggests adopting both zoning regulations and design guidelines for that east to west corridor running across the parish. The design guidelines would help to make that corridor a “vibrant commercial place” for local and national businesses.

Tattoo parlors, adult entertainment, pawn shops, junkyards and chemical processing facilities that produce visible emissions might be prohibited in the corridor, the planners suggest.

The plan doesn’t push zoning for rural areas of the parish where the concept has previously met resistance.

Instead, it recommends creation of sub-areas in which people determine to what extent they want land use regulations in their part of the parish.

A full-time planner would be hired to help in those determinations.

Planning for future traffic congestion is another area that needs serious consideration, according to the plan.

Many roadways are clogged during peak periods. Recent widening has reduced congestion on I-12, “but history shows that the benefit will be relatively short-lived,” the plan states.

An interconnected system of major roads is important to the development of a parish with a population that is expected to double in 30 years, the plan states.

It suggests adopting a major street plan to ensure that a future grid of roads won’t be blocked by development.

“There is some urgency to making this decision” so rights of way can be preserved, the plan states.

Because of lack of long-range planning, buildings have been erected too close to existing roadways in the western part of the parish, leaving no room to widen the roads, it says.

Developers should build collector roads for motorists to reach main highways. In the absence of building collector roads, developers need to provide road impact fees, according to the plan.

Regional sewer systems and added water capacity are also important to the parish, the plan says.

“Much of the unincorporated parish is served by septic systems and package treatment systems,” it says. “These systems are often not maintained adequately, and the result has been significant pollution of the surface water of the parish.”

Continued development without centralized sewage could result in the state restricting development, the plan continues.

The Parish Council will hold public hearings on the plan starting at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Livingston Parish Governmental Building, 20399 Government Blvd., in Livingston.

On May 23, it will hold a second public hearing on the plan at 8 p.m. in the same building.

The hearings are an important opportunity for people to have input on the future of the parish, said Marshall Harris, chairman of the Parish Council.

After the hearings, the council will consider the comments and then propose an ordinance concerning the plan.

The council can then adopt it, change it or reject it, he said.

Preparation of the plan was funded through a $450,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Long-term Recovery Program.