Ama residents sound off in a letter to the Council
In a letter submitted to the St. Charles Parish Council on June 28, concerned residents in Ama express their frustrations and disappointment with the approval process:
After our recent Ama Town Hall Meeting, we would like to itemize various areas of failure that have become evident in our systems and some potential solutions.
A. Failure of Public Awareness: Due to the inadequate current requirements for posting and notification, most of the people of Ama were unaware of the re-subdivision of open land to RV/mobile home status (R1M). Because of this lack of awareness, the normal checks and balances of public comment did not operate at either the P & Z Commission level or SCP Council level.
Solution: Increase Public Notification Requirements by:
1. Require Town Hall meetings in affected communities prior to P & Z meeting for projects of a certain size (needs to be defined)
2. Require that in addition to adjacent landowners being notified, a letter of notification be sent to the civic association of that community. If there is no civic association, a designated community representative from another organization could be named
3. Require posting on a major road in addition to the end of the property line
4. Improve newspaper listing by printing the name of town in bold print
5. Improve website notification, including email lists for those who sign up
6. The SCP Council should establish a committee for the purpose of developing a plan for better notification. This committee should include members from P & Z Dept. & P & Z Commission., community members & a council representative, with set time frame by which to produce recommendations to present to the council.
B. Failure of public to have adequate notification when SCP council intends to override Planning & Zoning Dept. & Commission recommendation.
Solution: If SCP council decides to override an ordinance against the recommendation of P & Z Dept. and Commission, then the ordinance should be tabled for 2 meetings and the SCP Council recommendation and reasoning should be posted to the community so that they have time to comment. This is to insure that the council member representing the district has studied the issue and has cogent reasons for recommending a reversal of P & Z Commission and that the community hears those reasons. The Director of Planning and Zoning Department and the Director of the Planning & Zoning Commission should be requested to be present when the item comes before the Council again.
The current system seems to show that there is too much reliance of the council as a whole on the home district member's recommendation and since that is the case, the district council member should be required to produce his reasons. That way the council as a whole can see the pros and cons of both the departmental recommendation and the council member's reasoning for overriding and the public will have time to assess the validity of both recommendations and comment to the council at the scheduled meeting. This will produce greater accountability.
C. Failure of Council receiving of accurate information
It is evident when reviewing the video of the meeting of December 19, 2005, that the council was not presented with an accurate and complete verbal report of the P & Z Dept. and Commission's recommendation for denial by the Director of P & Z at that time.
Solution: Council should develop procedures to insure that they are receiving P & Z (and other?) reports which are full and accurate and not just accept verbal (and incomplete and misleading) presentations.
D. Failure of Implementation of Parish criteria per code
Comments from council members at the meeting indicated that they relied on verbal comments at the council meeting in regards to the trailer park development rather than documented criteria and compliance.
Solution: Develop clearer lines of responsibility and insure that it is easy for the community to track those lines of responsibility. In addition, the ordinance needs to be reviewed as the requirements for R1M developments with the goal of bringing the ordinance for this classification closer into line with that for housing subdivisions and that compliance can be tracked.
Jara D. Roux
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