Lafayette rezoning requests spark debates

Council could overturn Zoning Commission’s denial

A request to change the zoning for a small parcel on the edge of downtown has the City-Parish councilman who represents the area at odds with the Zoning Commission and the Downtown Development Authority.

The owners of the property seek to rezone a little less than an acre between West Second and South Buchanan streets from a Light Industry classification to a Central Business District classification, a change that would do away with requirements to provide parking and would allow buildings to push closer to the property line.

The city-parish zoning staff recommended against the change, the Zoning Commission voted it down 3-2 last month and the Downtown Development Authority has gone on record against the rezoning.

The City-Parish Council introduced a measure Tuesday that could overturn the Zoning Commission’s denial. The issue is set for a council vote May 27.

“The property is not even in use right now,” said City-Parish Councilman Brandon Shelvin, who represents the downtown area and supports the re zoning. “We are trying to put the property back into commerce.”

In a letter to the Zoning Commission last month, Downtown Development Authority CEO Nathan Norris said the new zoning classification might make it easier to sell and develop the property, but the Central Business District zoning conditions would effectively take away oversight of what takes shape there.

“As a reminder, the CBD designation is so liberal that there is little to no certainty of what type of development will be built,” Norris wrote.

He said a questionable development could undermine the character of the area.

City-parish zoning staff raised concerns about easing requirements to provide parking spaces, since the property is bordered by two main roads where on-street parking is not allowed, as it is along streets in the core of downtown.

Real estate broker Jim Keaty, who is listed as an agent for the property, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Norris said he and his staff have begun speaking with the property owners to develop a more specific plan for the parcel but have not discussed the issue since the Zoning Commission denied the rezoning request on April 21.

Shelvin said he believes the property owners are interested only in a quality development and sees no need for a detailed plan before moving forward with the rezoning.

“We’ve approved several things without a set plan,” Shelvin said.

Meanwhile, the council on Tuesday came down on the opposite side of a similar issue, asking a property owner to commit to a specific plan to secure approval for a zoning change.

Scott Hines asked the council to rezone 5 acres he owns near the intersection North University Avenue and Couret Drive from residential to business so he can open an organic fruit and vegetable market.

But Hines said he wasn’t certain his plan for the market would work out and wanted to leave his options open for other businesses.

The council voted unanimously to give preliminary approval for the rezoning, but only with the condition the property be used for a produce market. A final vote on the change is set for May 27.

“I don’t want restrictions on my property. My neighbors don’t have restrictions,” Hines said, noting that several properties in the area are already zoned for commercial activity.

The council had shot down a prior rezoning request from Hines in November when he sought a zoning change to allow a Dollar General to be built on the same piece of property.

Shelvin took the lead against the November zoning request, arguing there were already enough “dollar stores” in the area.

“I do understand there was an issue with Dollar General. That deal is dead,” Hines said.

On Tuesday, Shelvin pushed for the conditional rezoning, saying he feared a general rezoning could revive a dollar store development.

“If we approve it without a condition, he can sell it to whoever he wants, including a Dollar General or a Family Dollar,” Shelvin said.

The Zoning Commission had voted unanimously in April to approve the new business zoning classification without conditions.