Calls for moratorium on new development in East Baton Rouge Parish grow

Published: Jun. 8, 2021 at 5:53 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - When the rains started falling nearly three weeks ago little did Rich Vlosky know that days later he would be gutting the house he planned on retiring in.

Tuesday he is still packing boxes and trying to remove what is salvageable, the rest of his and his wife’s possessions sit outside on the curb.

“It’s very frustrating to be in a place that doesn’t respond to the needs of its citizens to this degree,” Vlosky said. “Particularly when there have been so many citizens who have been vocal in the past and are vocal again now and it’s falling on deaf ears.”

Hundreds of homes across East Baton Rouge Parish flooded as a result of the heavy rains. Leaders inside the Mayor-President’s office say the drainage system was overwhelmed by the near 15 inches of rain in just three hours some areas received. Others, like Vlosky and his wife Denese blame a lack of planning in new development for causing drainage issues that in turn have put water in resident’s homes that have never flooded before. Their home, which is in flood zone x, took on eight inches of water after the lake behind their house overflowed. Vlosky said the lake has been taking on extra water from a new neighborhood being developed on Staring Ln.

Now, the Vlosky’s are petitioning state and EBR leaders to follow the lead of Ascension Parish and consider a moratorium on new development across the parish.

The petition to Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s office reads:

“Areas of Baton Rouge that have historically been safe from flooding and are not located within flood zones (based on FEMA flood maps) have been flooded during recent storms. The clearing of wetlands in and around the city for commercial and residential development has removed important flood storage causing stormwater to back up into storm drains and bayous and then into people’s homes. This repeated flooding is upending people’s lives, disrupting every aspect of life in the city, and destroying home values. Developers are making money at the expense of Baton Rouge’s homeowners and something needs to be done to stop it.”

Regarding adjacent properties, there are four (multiple acre) properties on the same (east) side of Staring Lane that are either just beginning to be developed or that are proposed developments. They are Magnolia Crossing, Willow Run, Fieldstone and Silverside Cove. These are huge developments on formerly undeveloped lands that do not and have not taken into account, mitigated for, or addressed stormwater runoff and drainage. In the development of Magnolia Crossing, for example, the developers’ plans state that stormwater runoff will be the “responsibility of property owners”. In the last 4 months, our lake has turned into a mud pit, our fish have died and wildlife has disappeared. The suspect is Magnolia Crossing and the dirt/debris runoff from that development.

Please follow Ascension Parish’s example and put a halt to any further development until a response to these drainage issues are put in place.

As the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) website states:

“As President and CEO, Camille oversees CPEX’s multidisciplinary team as they develop plans and provide technical assistance, data and research, policy guidance, communications support and thought leadership to communities seeking to make thoughtful decisions about how they develop and grow. Camille works closely with the CPEX Board of Directors to set the organization’s vision and advance CPEX’s mission to bring people and planning together to make great places.”

This is the advisory non-profit for “responsible development” in Baton Rouge. They have a plan, and have been advising the city. We know Baton Rouge has received a multimillion dollar sum from the federal government to remedy these drainage issues after the 2016 flood. We understand they have yet to be used.

We need their and your help! Please come out to our home, propose solutions to our (now) flooding issues (such as, alternative drainage paths, improved drain pipes, and culverts, etc.) so that we never have to deal with this again. I’ll await your call. We are in a rental. However, we will meet you there.

Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks will introduce a measure to start “a discussion to address a process by which certain subdivisions may petition the EBR Planning and Zoning Commission to implement a moratorium on building activity until certain specific underlying issues are resolved.”

Banks told WAFB over the phone it is simply her goal to figure out the best way to tackle the issues of flooding in Baton Rouge in a way that prevents homeowners who have not flooded before from flooding in the future.

Councilwoman Jennifer Racca said she prefers to find a solution without harming the growth the parish is experiencing.

“We have to come up with smart ways to make sure we are improving our infrastructure,” Racca said. “We have to make sure it’s an improvement, not a band aid.”

Racca said she endorses a plan by Councilman Dwight Hudson that would shift tax dollars from EBR Libraries and Mosquito Abatement to drainage and sewage. She said the goal would be to provide the Dept. of Public Works with the resources needed to clean out all drainage systems each year and make repairs before a larger issue arises. The measure, if approved by Metro Council, would ultimately be approved by voters in November.

“I think having those extra dollars redesignated to our drainage, sewage guys so they can develop a plan and get boots on the ground to actually do the maintenance needed, I think that would circumvent some of the problems that we see,” Racca said.

Vlosky said whatever the fix, it needs to come fast.

“These 25 year events are happening every three to four years and that’s not heartening to be now expecting that this might happen again,” he said.

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