Meetings coming up on changes to parish zoning ordinances

The St. Tammany Parish Department of Planning and Development has scheduled two public meetings to introduce proposed

The St. Tammany Parish Department of Planning and Development has scheduled two public meetings to introduce proposed changes to the parish planning and zoning ordinances.

The meetings will be held Wednesday, Oct. 11, in the Parish Council Chambers, 21490 Koop Drive in Mandeville, and Thursday, Oct. 12, in the Towers Building, 520 Old Spanish Trail in Slidell. Both events will begin with a presentation at 6 p.m., followed by an open house that will run until 8 p.m.

Director of Planning Sidney Fontenot told the St. Tammany Parish Zoning Commission at its Oct. 3 meeting that the proposed changes will come in two stages.

In the first stage, already underway, the current zoning ordinances are being moved onto Municode, a nationwide system that provides codification services and makes the resulting code available for public access through its online system.

As part of that process, the current zoning ordinances will undergo a language cleanup, replacing, for example, the term "policy jury" with "parish council" throughout the ordinances and bringing the language up to Municode standards. Fontenot says the cleanup process is expected to be completed by year's end.

In the second stage, more substantive changes will be proposed, based on a yearlong effort by the planning department staff. Those changes may include, among other things, modifying the subdivision approval process to allow certain approvals to be made administratively rather than requiring a public hearing and the approval of the parish Planning Commission.

To get the process started, the proposed changes, totaling 469 pages, are being distributed to members of the Planning and Zoning Commissions and the Parish Council and will be available to the public on the parish website. The meetings on Wednesday and Thursday will give the public a chance to learn about the proposed changes, and planning department staffers will be on hand to answer questions.

Fontenot expects a public review and discussion process to take place over the rest of this year, followed by a more formal review and adoption process beginning next year.

"This is a massive undertaking," Fontenot said. "It has taken us a year, and we don’t expect everybody to understand it in a month."

On its Oct. 3 business agenda, the Zoning Commission unanimously approved the addition of a Regional Business Center Overlay to the Nord du Lac mixed-use development at the northeast intersection of Interstate 12 and Louisiana 21. The overlay will not change the land usage within the development but will improve the complex’s guidelines for architecture, landscape, signage, parking, lighting and other criteria.

In an unusual case, commissioners also approved Vincent Valenti’s request to rezone an acre of lakefront land he and his wife own south of U.S. 190, east of Mandeville, from PF-2 Public Facilities District to A-3 Suburban District so they can build their retirement home there. The land is located within the confines of Fontainebleau State Park.

Commissioner Jimmie Davis noted the unusual location and asked Valenti if he would be willing to sell the land to the state rather than build a private home there, but Valenti said the state had declined to purchase the land when it came up for sale 16 years ago. "I’ve been planning on this for 16 years, and I really don’t want to sell it," Valenti said.

Valenti’s request was approved on a 7-2 vote, with Commissioners Wendell Richardson and Todd Richard voting nay, and Martha Cazaubon and Patrick Fitzmorris absent.

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