Council tables drainage-related resolution after heated debate

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 5:13 AM CDT
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HAHNVILLE, La. (WVUE) - Dozens of St. Charles Parish residents gathered in the lobby of the courthouse to hear the discussion about a proposed moratorium on large subdivision construction.

Due to Coronavirus-related restrictions, few were allowed in council chambers. Instead, monitors were set up outside the room and in the lobby. The monitor in the lobby, however, repeatedly froze due to what one employee described as an “overloaded system”, citing demand for the live stream. Eventually, all attendees were allowed upstairs.

Leaders believe a lot of that demand stems from recent flooding.

Parish President Matthew Jewell says seven inches of rain in about an hour overwhelmed the drainage system in the Ormand Boulevard area, Sunday afternoon, but believes steps can be taken to improve outdated infrastructure.

A number of people saw water in their homes, cars and garages. For some, it was the third time in 18 months.

Jewell says the parish is currently working on nine projects. The council, however, considered his proposal for a hiatus on big construction for subdivisions. Jewell says new developments have an impact on existing neighborhoods. He says the more land developed, the less absorption. The more concrete, the more runoff.

Many residents who took the podium agreed and spoke in favor of the moratorium.

In addition to his proposal, Jewell spoke at length about the current projects, permits and surveys currently in the works to improve drainage. He told council members the nine projects will cost close to $9 million.

When it came time for questions from council members and discussion, the meeting took a turn.

Several council members accused Jewell of not taking action quickly enough, while Jewell pointed to council members who have been in office for a number of years.

Those opposed to the moratorium said there's already a process in place and believe a hiatus could not only stunt economic growth but it may also circumvent the appropriate processes.

Jewell says the underlying issue for the Ormand area is a problem with conveyance.

He says outdated infrastructure is unable to properly move the amount of water these neighborhoods are seeing. Jewell indicates the systems must be updated so that water moves more efficiently. Right now, leaders agree catch basins have not been maintained and culverts for drainage are too small.

In the end, the council voted seven to two to table the issue, saying they don't believe this is the proper process, though the parish attorney's advice indicated otherwise.

The council members decided to send the proposal to Planning and Zoning for review.

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