Calcasieu may change corridor standards for Moss Bluff

Calcasieu Parish officials are proposing updated corridor standards for commercial development in Moss Bluff and surrounding areas as a way to relax requirements and cut costs for small businesses.

Members of the Police Jury’s Public Works Committee heard the proposal during a meeting Thursday. Wes Crain, parish planning and development director, said the changes for the Ward 1 Corridor District would apply to parking, off-premises signs, outdoor display and storage, mechanical equipment and architectural materials.

If approved by the full Police Jury, the amendments would change development standards that have been in effect since Jan. 1, 2015. Since that time, Crain said some residents have asked officials to revisit the development code “to provide some flexibility.”

Proposed changes

Currently, all parking lots and driveways must be concrete or asphalt. Crain said the proposed amendment would allow for “alternative hard surfacing,” and “aggregate parking surface” on the side or rear of the facility. The area would also have to be screened with fencing or landscape material.

The amendment would allow off-premises signs as long as they are 2,000 feet apart from each other. The current code prohibits them in the corridor outright.

Wood cladding on exterior walls is prohibited under the current code, but the amendment would allow it.

The current code allows outdoor display and storage for only operable vehicles and manufactured homes. Under the proposed amendment, any items being sold within the structure would be allowed. It must not be within a required parking area, must be owned by the owner or lessee, and be landscaped.

Feedback

Crain said local stakeholders have received copies of the proposed changes and have not returned any negative comments. He said parish staff got positive feedback from the Ward 1 Economic Development Board.

“I feel like we have gotten the word out,” Crain said.

District 1 Police Juror Kevin White said he has read “letters of hardship” from small-business owners who are concerned about the cost of hard surfaces for parking. 

“We compared these letters and looked at ways that we can revise the ordinances so it would be less burdensome on new businesses in Moss Bluff and cut down on their expense,” he said. 

District 7 Police Juror Chris Landry disagreed with the changes, calling them “a step backwards” from the 2015 updates. 

“It’s not going to look as good,” he said. “You either can afford to do the project right, or you can’t. I don’t like doing less.” 

Landry said Moss Bluff’s biggest problem is inadequate sewage.

“You’ve got lots of people up there that have money and would spend money at a local business,” he said. “But those local businesses don’t locate there because of the sewage issue. It’s not whether they’ve got to pave a parking lot.”

District 6 Police Juror Dennis Scott said residents in April 2014 strongly opposed a 20-year, quarter-cent sales tax that would have funded part of a $110 million sewer expansion in unincorporated areas, including Moss Bluff.

“That would’ve created business,” Scott said.

The zoning board approved the proposed amendments July 11. Crain said the full Police Jury is set to take final action at its Aug. 24 regular meeting.

The proposal is available at www.cppj.net.

New officer

Brian Abshire was sworn in as the new police juror for District 5. He replaces Nic Hunter, who stepped down in May after winning the Lake Charles mayor’s race. Abshire, who was unopposed in the District 5 race, said the “most obvious” challenge in the parish is drainage.

“I have heard from quite a few people in the unincorporated areas of Prien Lake Park about some flooding out there,” Abshire said. “The biggest part of the job is working with the committees to improve drainage and work on ordinances to help the constituents in those affected areas.”

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