New subdivision vetoed by Laque

Prone to flooding cited as a reason.

May 24, 2006 at 12:25 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

A photo of Pier 90 taken during Hurricane Rita. While the proposed homes would be on stilts, the photo shows how much water can inundate the area.
Photo by Ann Taylor
A photo of Pier 90 taken during Hurricane Rita. While the proposed homes would be on stilts, the photo shows how much water can inundate the area.
In a rare move, Parish President Albert Laque vetoed an ordinance to approve a five home subdivision in an area designated wetlands along Highway 90, citing a propensity for flooding.

The parish council upheld the veto by a vote of 6-3. Council members Dickie Duhe, Barry Minnich and Ganesier "Ram" Ramchandran voted against the veto.

In a letter, Laque wrote, that "this property is subject to inundation from tidal exchange," adding that the wetlands used by this subdivision are vital storm surge protection. "Common sense tells us that changing the zoning designation on paper does not change the existing conditions of the property that brought about the original designation," said Laque in prepared statement before the council voted on the veto.

While the parish president and most of the council don't think residents should build on the site, Michelle Borey, Lakewood, knows the situation and wants to build.

In a letter to the parish president, Borey wrote, "Mr. Laque, you and other council members greatly underestimate the cognitive abilities of your constituents….I personally had done my homework. I am well aware of the fact that this property is prone to flooding. I had already spoken to Planning and Zoning about how high the land had to be filled in. Kevin (Friloux) had already informed us as to how high the house had to be built. I was already talking to people about filling the land."

Borey cited the Matherne property adjacent to proposed homes that already has a home on stilts, and she was aware that Matherne's driveway was inaccessible during Hurricane Rita. "I don't understand why they let Matherenes develop, but not anyone else," said Borey.

For two and half years, Joseph Bernstein of New Orleans has attempted to get five lots and a boat launch approved near the parish line in front of Borrow Canal. To help expedite the process, Bernstein hired Kevin Friloux.

Friloux, a former parish president, runs Realtors of St. Charles, and he has previous experience in developing land along Hwy. 90. With water access at the back of the houses, the homes were to be raised similar to Catfish Cove in Lafourche Parish, and they were to be in the $200,000 price range.

"This is obscene," said Bernstein, commenting on the hurdles that he has attempted to go through to get the deal finished. All together, Bernstein has spent around $4,000 in preparing the property.

During the veto however, not all were in agreement. "I think people should be free to do what they want with their property," said Councilman Dickie Duhe.

Friloux said that Corps approved the project before the veto, adding that Corps ordered Bernstein to keep the front of the property wetlands. According to Friloux, the only thing stopping Bernstein was parish council's approval and $15,000 in wetland mitigation. Bernstein wanted to wait to make the payment until it was approved by the council.

As for those against the deal, Fabre said at that May 1 meeting that he has seen the property "underwater." Director of Public Works Gregory Bush testified that the "area was prone to flooding."

Nonetheless, at the council meeting on May 1, the ordinance to approve the homes passed 5-4 with council members Derryl Walls, April Black, Ganesier "Ram" Ramchandran, Dickie Duhe and Barry Minnich voting in favor. Council Chairman Brian Fabre and Councilmen Desmond Hilaire, Clayton "Snookie" Faucheux and Lance Marino voting against the move.

While members of parish council are opposed to the subdivision today, in December 2004, things were very different. At that time the parish council offered no objection to Bernstein deal, approving a resolution. In that resolution, the subdivision passed unanimously, with Fabre and Minnich absent. But parish officials cite that was before Katrina and Rita.

Several years ago, Friloux was hired by Joe Marcello to re-subdivide a small piece of land along Hwy. 90. Friloux went through the permitting process that the Army Corps of Engineers and Coastal Zone Management requires. It was through this development project that Bernstein came to meet Friloux.

While the property's fate is in limbo, Borey said that roadblocks are enough to make her look outside of the parish to build a new home.

View other articles written Michael Luke

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