Zoning board votes against event center

<p class="p1">Several people in the standing-room-only crowd wore red and black, the same colors as the signs posted along Shell Beach Drive that opposed the request.</p>John GuidrozCalcasieu Parish Government and Cameron Parish Reporter

<p class="p1">A 4-1 vote on Monday by the Lake Charles Planning and Zoning Commission rejected a zoning application by Mazen Hijazi to convert a home at 1301 Shell Beach Drive into a restaurant and special event center.

<p class="p1">Residents who live on Shell Beach Drive said a restaurant isn’t compatible with the neighborhood, would increase traffic and lower property values. Several people in the standing-room-only crowd wore red and black, the same colors as the signs posted along Shell Beach Drive that opposed the request.

<p class="p1">Hijazi, owner of Mazen’s restaurant on West College Street, requested a “major conditional use permit” for the 9.27 acres of property. Dan Flavin, of Flavin Realty, said the 10,547-square-foot home, currently owned by Rick and Donna Richard, has been on the market for more than a year. He said a restaurant would open the estate up for public viewing. Hijazi said he planned to move his existing restaurant to the Shell Beach Drive location.

<p class="p1">Willie Mount said operating a restaurant on the property doesn’t make sense because it is “not located in a congested and blighted area that needs rehabilitation.”

<p class="p1">Drew Hoffpauir said his family has lived on Shell Beach Drive for the past six years. He said the proposed parking lot behind the Richard’s home would be “in the direct line of vision” of his pool. Hoffpauir said property owners along Shell Beach Drive want the area to be protected from commercial development.

<p class="p1">Steve Shaddock said he had a petition with signatures from 500 residents who opposed Hijazi’s request, including 65 residents who live on Shell Beach Drive. He said the request is the “definition of spot zoning,” and the roadway is too narrow to support heavy traffic and commercial delivery trucks.

<p class="p1">Shaddock said the development would devalue property for homeowners, along with residents who use the sidewalks to exercise.

  1. Residents oppose restaurant/event center

<p class="p1">Scott Henry said the location isn’t suitable for a business.

<p class="p1">“We have to start thinking not every place is developable,” he said. “There’s a better place to put this.”

<p class="p1">Flavin countered, saying Lake Charles has “restaurants everywhere” that are nearby existing neighborhoods or surround them. He said the food delivery would be arranged so that commercial trucks would not be driving along the roadway.

<p class="p1">Voting to deny the request were George Cestia, David Berryhill, Matt Bouillion and Thomas Sanders Jr. Alvin Joseph voted for the request.

<p class="p1">Hijazi declined to comment after the vote. Doug Burguieres, assistant director for the city’s planning department, said Hijazi can file an appeal within 15 days.

<p class="p1">Hijazi told the <em>American Press</em> earlier this month that he has “other venues or options” for the business if the application is denied.

<p class="p1">Later in the meeting, the commission voted 3-2 to approve a request by Brad Foreman to re-subdivide a .55-acre tract of land on 800 Contraband Lane to allow for two single-family development tracts. The vote was made despite opposition from nearby residents.

<p class="p1">Cestia, Bouillion and Joseph approved the request, while Sanders and Berryhill opposed it.