Large tract in Gonzales eyed for rezoning, major development

The Gonzales Planning and Zoning Commission is considering a request to rezone a 340-plus-acre parcel of land along La. 44 and Interstate 10 that could become the growing city’s next major development.

The commission on Monday called for a public hearing on June 3 to discuss rezoning the M.P. Evans property, which currently has the city’s most-restrictive residential zoning. The city annexed the land in March 2012, along with a 63 acre portion of the property previously sold to the Ascension Parish School Board.

Gary Binns, a commercial real estate broker representing the estate of the late Merritt P. Evans Jr. and Ruth Walker Evans, told the commission deals have been reached to sell a 127-acre portion of the property for single-family residences and another 20-acre tract for apartments, pending approval of the zoning changes.

In addition, Binns said, a buyer has expressed interest in purchasing 105-acre section that would be zoned light industrial and could feature warehouses or storage units. He also said roughly 80 acres has been set aside for commercial development, including a potential grocery store to serve the residents of the area.

“This is going to be a community,” Binns said. “This is not going to be a neighborhood.”

The Evans development will be located near the Edenborne development, which will feature the new River Parishes Community College campus and regional headquarters for Emerson Process Management. Unlike Edenborne, Binns said, Evans will not be a traditional neighborhood development.

Johnnie Balfantz, a spokesman for the Ascension Parish school district, said school officials have had preliminary discussions about eventually locating a new high school on the 63 acres it purchased, located along La. 941 on the southeast portion of the property. However, no plans are in place now for how the district will use the property, he said.

Binns said the developer’s plans calls for homes to be constructed in the $180,000 to $250,000 range, but said that is subject to change.

Several potential hurdles have to be cleared for the project to go forward, according to developers.

The estate is seeking R-6 and R-8 residential zoning designations with plans for 50-, 60- and 70-foot lots. Binns said, “The developer absolutely doesn’t want all 50-foot lots,” but also said there’s a stereotype against small lots that must be overcome.

John Cagnolatti, the commission’s chairman, said the R-6 zoning, which allows for the smaller lots, might be a difficult hurdle to overcome.

“Historically, the (Gonzales City) Council has not granted an R-6 zoning,” Cagnolatti said.

Binns, however, assured commissioners the development would be top-notch and a point of pride in Gonzales.

“Smaller lots do not equate to smaller price tags,” he said. “People want smaller lots to not have to care for them.”