Zoning Commission is on track to confront "non-planning"
IT'S A NEW DAY?
On May 15th, the Lafayette Planning & Zoning Commission will
entertain an agenda item addressing a request for preliminary plat
approval of a new development which could result in the privately owned
construction of a student apartment facility to house ULL students.
Ordinarily, this would be a no-brainer for the Laf. Planning
Commission. But because this application is the first
development project to be scrutinized under new criteria, the outcome
is currently undeterminable.
Two years ago the planning commission voted to adapt the concept of
utilizing neighborhood residents as both a catalyst and resource
focused on making neighborhoods conducive and compatible for all
neighborhood inhabitants. What is unique about this concept
is that the people who live in a neighborhood get to decide how they
want their neighborhood to look and develop. Neighbors get to establish
a design framework for development, ensuring future compatibility with
what already exist. This is a cooperative negotiating process
involving both residential and commercial inhabitants. What
could be more democratic?
Well, the application for the construction of the apartment facility on
the commission's May 15th agenda requires the commission to
examine the "neighborhood will of the people plan" versus the LCG rigid
subdivision and zoning regulations (Ordinance) addressing development
requirements and compliance rules.
Complicating this issue is the fact that the neighborhoods involved,
Freetown and Port Rico are recognized as Historical
sites. An effort is currently underway to have Freetown
designated as a national historic neighborhood. With this
move afoot, residents of the neighborhood object to the proposed
student housing because it bears no relationship to the historical
significance of the neighborhood and would stand out like a sore
thumb. Additionally, residents say this development does not
conform to the land use plan developed by their neighborhood
residents. Residents are not opposed to apartment housing in
the neighborhood but feel strongly that student apartment housing is
out of place.
Additionally complicating the matter is the commission's development
staff's recommendation for approval of the development based on the
parish governing ordinances, while the commission's planning staff
supports the promoting of neighborhood defined development as already
approved by the commission. The commission's support for
neighborhood defined development is one process advocated in the
development of our Parish Comprehensive Plan.
There are some who would say follow the governing ordinances, while
others advocate following the comprehensive plan process of supporting
neighborhood groups active participation in government through the
pursuit of neighborhood residents interests.
This and similar issues regarding the planned growth of Lafayette are
on the planning commission's horizon with undoubtedly involvement of
the LCG Council and the LCG Administration.
It is common knowledge that "Smart Growth" is the new buzz word
(jargon) in Lafayette regarding planned
development. This designation in simplistic terms
inherently implies a "change". Smart Growth is not a "one
plan fits all" type of solution for developing communities.
Instead, it is a unique, defined solution based on the character of
each neighborhood and designed to create functional neighborhoods
capable of sustaining basic neighborhood community comfort and needs.
Just how "Smart Growth" will figure into the commission's decision
regarding the student housing development is anybody's guess!
What ever the outcome, this matter is likely to end up before the
parish council on appeal. If so, the council will have to
decide not only the fate of the student housing development but its
position regarding Smart Growth and the participation of neighborhood
residents in the planning of their neighborhoods.
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