Ascension homeowners angry over plans for new subdivision near Dutchtown

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - A group of concerned citizens in Ascension Parish is furious over plans for a new subdivision that will be located near Dutchtown, off Hwy. 74 near Bluff Road. Some people who live near there said parish leaders are ignoring their concerns.

Dutchtown has, in recent years, become a popular place to build. Several subdivisions have popped up near the intersection of Hwy. 73 and 74. It appears the growth spurt is far from over. Some people who live in the area said enough is enough.

"If we cannot put the infrastructure in to support the growth, then we need to slow it down until we can," Jeff Pettit said.

Jeff Pettit's main concerns, like many who live in Ascension Parish, are traffic and drainage. He said despite countless complaints, parish leaders continue to give developers the green light to build.

"Traffic stacks up everywhere and we gridlock this part of the parish and we continue to build these rooftops, and we are putting a burden on the traffic system and roadways and on our schools," Pettit said.

The newest proposed neighborhood on the block is Oakbourne. The plan calls for 60 lots to be built along a single street. The Ascension Parish Planning and Zoning Committee rejected the development in September, but the two-member parish appeals board overturned that decision two weeks ago.

Appeals Board chairman Fritz Englade said that is because the developer, Ross Berthelot, has fulfilled all obligations necessary to build there. Berthelot told 9News the proposed project's drainage is projected by engineers to decrease the water outflow off of the 20-acre piece of land. In addition, he said the $120,000 in traffic impact fees his development will generate should be used by the parish to further improve the area.

Pettit argues because the parish allows the developer to hire their own companies to do impact studies, the results are usually favorable for the developer. He said it is something parish president Kenny Matassa promised to change last year.

"Kenny Matassa, in February, at a council meeting, stated his goal was to take those processes, traffic, and drainage out of the hands of the developer and put them in the hand of the parish and charge the developers for them. That never happened," Pettit said.

Meanwhile, Pettit is circulating a letter to the 973 homeowners in the area. It points out the traffic and drainage dilemma and asks them to help him raise funds to take parish leaders to court. "We just want some relief. We want a responsible parish government. We don't have that right now," Pettit said.

A spokesman for the Ascension Parish president said the parish did advertise for drainage and traffic engineers, as President Matassa stated in February of last year, but unfortunately, they did not receive any resumes at the time. He added they do employ an independent engineering review agency to look at the plans and determine whether they comply with parish ordinances.

The citizens' group plans to discuss the matter at a meeting on Wednesday, January 25 at 7 p.m. It will be held at Frank's restaurant on Airline Hwy.

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