Ascension planning officials consider large tract off I-10

GONZALES — Representatives of the heirs of deceased cattleman M.P. Evans and his late wife, Ruth, head back to the city Planning and Zoning Commission at 6 p.m. Tuesday with a revised plan to rezone 341 acres near the Burnside exit of Interstate 10/Burnside exit.

The Evans estate is seeking to rezone the cow pasture from the city’s most restrictive residential zoning to a mix of uses that includes retail spaces and small office warehouses, houses built at varying densities and about 20 acres of apartments.

In July, the City Council sent the plan back to the commission because of questions about the proposal. The commission had previously recommended denial.

With cows milling about the broad tract, the property has been a scenic fixture along I-10.

Residents living near the property have opposed the rezoning out of concern for the future strain on roads and drainage and the loss of the rural quality of life. The tract, which is on the southeast corner of the I-10 interchange, is rimmed by two two-lane state highways, La. 941 and La. 44.

Kathryn Goppelt, a community activist, said the plans are sketchy and could be changed at any time.

“This is too much at one time with too many unknowns,” she said in an email.

She said without infrastructure in place or being built simultaneously with development, high destiny growth is “unacceptable and inappropriate.”

“Is there responsible government in Ascension Parish with vision for our community?” she said.

Commissioner Frank Cagnolatti said individual commissioners and the heirs’ representatives have been meeting for the past several weeks.

“I guess we’re continuing to negotiate and we’re making progress, and we’re making progress to the point that we’re getting fairly close, close to agreeing on what were going to agree on,” he said.

“They are not getting everything they want, and we’re not getting everything we want. You know, it’s a compromise.”

All this depends, he said, on Tuesday’s debate. He said commissioners also are trying to determine uses for the site that are as compatible as possible with surrounding homes.

Gary Binns, one of the agents marketing the property, said the heirs have shifted site of the apartments and are offering to donate land for widening La. 44, for improvements at the La. 44/La. 941 interchange and for a regional city treatment plant.

“We are strictly an estate selling land. We are not a developer. We have tried to master plan this as best we can, as if we are a developer, but we are not a developer,” he said.

Binns said the estate’s 137 heirs have had the property, which has an appraised value of $10.8 million, on the market for five years under its current zoning. Interest has only been for an entirely residential development or as an industrial site, he said.

Binns said the best use is the mix being proposed, providing homes but also businesses that help sales tax revenues.

“Right now we could build 1,025 houses and just be done with it,” Binns said. “That’s what we’re zoned for, but that’s not in anyone’s best interest.”

The commission meets at City Hall, 120 S. Irma Blvd., Gonzales.