Housing-complex waivers upheld

LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Consolidated Council on Tuesday rejected residents’ appeal of street setback waivers that were granted to a housing complex planned in their neighborhood.

The mixed-use development, Joie de Vivre, includes retail and affordable housing. The Acadiana Outreach Center project is planned along Second Street near downtown Lafayette.

The Planning Commission granted preliminary plat approval June 13 for the project and waived the 50-foot required enhanced setbacks along four streets that border the project. A setback is the distance between the streets and buildings.

The setback waivers were granted because the streets are older and are “substandard right-of-way streets,” Eleanor Buoy, Planning and Zoning director, told the council. The 50-foot setback requirements are “present-day standards” and such waivers are common, she said.

June Faul, of South Pierce Street and the Mills and Hopkins Addition Association, filed the appeal. It was rejected by a 6-2 vote.

Voting in favor of the appeal were William Theriot and Jared Bellard. Voting against the appeal were: Mary Morrison, Jay Castille, Brandon Shelvin, Kenneth Boudreaux, Sam Dore and Keith Patin. Don Bertrand was absent.

Construction on the project is scheduled to begin in September, said Greg Gachassin, the project’s consultant.

The project will be funded in part by the sale of federal affordable housing tax credits.

The September start date is contingent upon the sale of the tax credits, Gachassin said.

The project includes about 70 apartments that will be reserved for residents with incomes ranging from $24,540 to $34,980 — depending upon their family size, according to the project’s website.

The complex will also include a day-care center, community and fitness center, and retail storefronts.

The project relies on off-street parking and parking variances that were also granted by the city.

An appeal of the parking variances has not yet been filed, but it’s a possibility, attorney Kraig Strenge told the council before its vote. Strenge represents the neighborhood association and Faul.

“My clients are concerned about those variances for safety reasons and in particular with regard to the South Pierce Street,” Strenge said. That is a relatively high traffic (street). It’s a narrow street … and currently has zero parking at all.”

Prior to council and public discussion on the issue, city-parish attorney Mike Hebert reminded the council that the parking variances were not part of the issue before them Tuesday.

Any appeals of the parking variances that were granted would be deliberated in district court, Hebert said.

Cities can’t grow unless setback variances are granted, said Hector LaSala, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette architecture professor who serves on the Acadiana Outreach Center’s Board of Directors. LaSala was also part of the Joie de Vivre design development team.

LaSala told the council he was addressing them as a member of the Lafayette In A Century Committee.

The project reflected LINC’s goal of extending downtown into the “urban core,” LaSala said.

James Underwood and Krista Fontenot, who live on South Pierce Street, asked the council to consider the negative impact the project will have on the neighborhood.

The project is adjacent to the Acadiana Outreach Center’s campus. The nonprofit agency provides services to the out-of-work, homeless and those in addiction recovery.

The couple said the project will create more issues than traffic woes.

“I don’t think an overnight security officer will keep crime and drugs out of the (neighborhood),” Underwood said.

At least 11 other people filed public comment cards in opposition to the appeal, but did not wish to address the council, said Norma Dugas, council clerk.