Planning Commission recommends approval of Rouzan zoning request

The City-Parish Planning Commission wants the Metro Council to approve a controversial rezoning request necessary for the Rouzan development southwest of Perkins Road and Glasgow Avenue.

The Metro Council is slated to vote Wednesday whether to reinstate traditional neighborhood development status to the long-debated neighborhood, following a recent court ruling that reverted Rouzan to the parish’s stricter A-1 single family zoning.

But the ongoing fight over Rouzan is likely to stretch beyond this week’s vote.

Several nearby residents spoke out against the zoning change Monday when it came before the Planning Commission.

“The problem starts here,” said Bob Welch, a resident who was among those who challenged Rouzan’s rezoning in court. “(The commission is) creating problems.”

Neighborhoods designated as TNDs can have homes on smaller lots and also can include commercial buildings and multifamily housing.

At the Planning Commission meeting, Rouzan developer Tommy Spinosa again defended his project and the steps needed to move forward with the neighborhood.

“We have — from the beginning — worked diligently to satisfy all of the needs of (the opponents). We’ve bent over backward to accommodate these people in every way,” he said.

The Planning Commission voted 5-3 in favor of Spinosa’s rezoning application.

Voting to recommend the rezoning were Commissioners W.T. Winfield, James Gilmore, Darius Bonton, John Price and Laurie Marien.

Commissioners Sarah Holiday-James, Gregory DuCote and Steven Perret voted against the request, and Commission Chairwoman Tara Wicker was absent.

The move comes just a week after the Metro Council amended the TND obligations by dropping a requirement that a developer prove his or her “control of the entire area.” According to the Parish Attorney’s Office, that change made the ordinance more consistent with city-parish requirements for other types of rezoning requests.

Those locked in a court battle over Rouzan have argued the change was intended only to benefit Spinosa.

“It smells funny to me and to a lot of other people, too,” said Janet Hoover, one of the other residents who has challenged the Rouzan development in court.

In other action Monday, the Planning Commission approved plans for a nearly 75-acre Halloween attraction and haunted house near Central. The seasonal attraction, which will be operated by the 13th Gate, will include a hayride, laser tag and a corn maze.

Commissioners also scheduled a special meeting for 2 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the ongoing search for a new planning director.

The search has been underway for nearly six months, with more than 90 applications received.

But after a series of setbacks that have included multiple candidates pulling out of the process and the commission’s top pick declining its offer, the only two of the finalists left in the running are Don Broussard, of Atlanta, and Frank Duke, of Norfolk, Va.

Metro Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe, in an email to fellow Metro Council members last week, suggested the council appoint interim Planning Director Ryan Holcomb to the post. Commissioners have been split on the proposal and are expected to discuss several options at Wednesday’s meeting.