Baton Rouge’s new planning director starts June 16

Baton Rouge’s new planning director Frank Duke will start work June 16.

Duke, the former city planner for Norfolk, Virginia, was picked for the parish’s top planning job after a second round of interviews earlier this month.

The City-Parish Planning Commission unanimously voted Monday to pay up to $5,000 for half of Duke’s moving expenses and received an update on when he will take the reins.

Commission Chairwoman Tara Wicker said Duke was unable to attend Monday’s commission meeting, but he planned to watch online.

Duke was the commission’s second pick for the job, after Cincinnati planner Charles Graves turned down an offer in March. But commissioners ultimately said they were satisfied with Duke’s hire and eager for him to start work.

The new planning director will be responsible for the ongoing implementation of FutureBR, the city-parish master plan. Other duties include reviewing plans for subdivisions and some commercial developments and potential zoning changes. The job pays up to $100,202 a year, plus a car allowance and benefits.

“I think this is one of America’s great cities,” Duke said when asked during his second interview why he wanted the job.

He repeatedly stressed the importance of “respecting differences and communicating with people.”

Duke resigned from his post in Norfolk in November. During his Baton Rouge interview, he said he felt his attention had been pulled away from planning. He recently was elected to the American Institute of Certified Planners’ prestigious college of fellows.

In other action Monday, the Planning Commission approved, without objection, the development plan for phase one of Pointe-Marie, a mixed-use development proposed for nearly 120 acres of land southwest of Nicholson Drive and north of River road.

Developer Rhaoul Guillaume Jr. said the goal is to create a “new village along River Road.”

He said the development, which will include residential properties, commercial spaces and amenities that range from a village square and film production offices, to a dog park and sports fields, meets the goals of FutureBR.

“Bicycling and walking will be encouraged in Pointe-Marie,” he said.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow our City Hall blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/cityhallbuzz.