BY CHAD CALDER
Advocate business writer
October 24, 2012
The city-parish Planning Commission soon will have public email addresses for its board members, following criticism Monday night that residents can’t directly contact commissioners to voice concerns about upcoming planning and zoning issues.
Southdowns residents came out in droves Monday night, successfully opposing a Planning Commission staff recommendation to rezone a piece of property at Perkins Road and Stuart Avenue.
Some noted during the meeting that roughly 140 emails in opposition to the request were merely placed in the case file, which is made available to commission members, and couldn’t be sent directly to them.
Warner Delaune, an attorney who lives near the property many felt shouldn’t be rezoned as commercial, said he spent 30 hours putting together a letter he sent to the commission outlining the neighbors’ case against the zoning request.
He said he was stunned to find out many of the commissioners hadn’t even seen it.
“This does not reflect how city-parish government is supposed to work,” he said. “It’s unthinkable to me.”
Planning Director Troy Bunch said commissioners are given a choice whether to make their emails and phone numbers available to the public, but not all do.
He said email addresses will be made available.
“I’m sure that by the next Planning Commission (meeting) it will be done,” Bunch said.
Bunch also came under fire after some residents said his recommendation to the property owner, Ben Skillman, to pursue an infill small planned unit development amounted to taking sides on the issue.
Bunch closed the meeting by noting it’s his job to explain the positives and the negatives of any kind of rezoning to an applicant.
In other business, the commission approved a concept plan for The Greens at Millerville, an apartment and retail/office development at the former Fairwood golf course along Interstate 12 west of Millerville Road.
The 8-0 vote came over the objections of about a half-dozen residents who said traffic in the area is already bad.
The residents also said they are worried about the size and placement of the apartment buildings and a potential car dealership there.
Commissioner Audrey Nabors Jackson was absent.
Developer Windy Gladney said the layout of the development, which will be considered at a later meeting, will address neighbors’ concerns, and a planned on-ramp to the interstate will improve traffic.