Calcasieu Planning and Zoning presented revised UDC draft

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Calcasieu Parish Planning and Zoning Board will spend the next four to six weeks reviewing the revised draft of the Unified Development Code before taking action, parish planning officials said.

The board was presented the document Tuesday. The UDC is an effort by parish staff to consolidate 19 existing parish ordinances into one document. Parish officials have hosted a series of public meetings over the last few months to get input from residents, developers and real estate agents in the community.

Public reaction to the UDC has been mixed. Residents voiced concerns which include the code’s affect on property rights and that the parish staff has too much authority on development decisions. Jennifer Wallace, the parish’s assistant director of planning and grants, said that more than 100 changes were made to the document to address those and other concerns.

Email newsletter signup

On Tuesday, Wallace addressed some common misconceptions with the UDC, including one where the parish can force a homeowner to make changes to his or her property. She said all existing lots and homes are grandfathered in.

“Homeowners can keep doing what they have been doing,” Wallace said. “Nothing in this document changes how you live.”

Wallace said the Police Jury has the authority to make any changes to the UDC even after the panel approves it and that the public can appeal those changes in the 14th Judicial District Court.

“This document is not set in stone,” she said.

John Duhon, a planning board member, said most of these ordinances came by the way of the people over the last several decades.

“Citizens come to the Police Jury and make suggestions on what the ordinances should be, and we come back with something that a majority of the people (can) live with,” he said. “If that’s not a government of the people, by the people and for the people, I don’t know what is.”

Public reaction

About 30 residents attended Tuesday’s meeting. Most of the comments made were from homeowners.

Barry Badon, a Carlyss resident who once lived in Cameron Parish, said he’s worried that the UDC would interfere with property rights.

“Is more government the solution,” he asked. “I come from Cameron Parish, and if you want to see what happens when the government goes too far, that’s what happens.”

Randy Hebert, a Sulphur resident, voiced concerns about listing specific details in the land use matrix for R-1 residential development for stables. Wallace said planning staff would review the matrix.

Wallace said public comments will be accepted until a decision is made by the full Police Jury.

The Planning and Zoning Board will meet again at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 18. But Wallace said the board’s consideration of the UDC will likely take place later in the month. No date has been set on when the full Police Jury will consider the document.

For more on the Unified Development Code, call Wallace at 721-3600.