Filling the St. Charles Parish Council chambers last Monday, St. Rose residents won their months long fight with a developer that sought a special permit to build four townhouses on a lot in their neighborhood.
“Townhouses are not forever homes,” resident Jay Smith told the council. “They are bought and most of the time turned into rentals.”
The council unanimously rejected the permit request.
Smith, who has lived more than 30 years on Riverview Drive and faced living across from the proposed site, maintained townhouses weren’t a good fit for his neighborhood made up mostly of single-home dwellings.
Accompanied by at least 50 neighbors, Smith asked the council to reject D Luxe LLC’s second request for a special permit to build four townhouses on Riverview Drive. The company’s earlier request died when the Planning Commission tied in a 3-to-3 vote and then recommended approving it when it was submitted a second time.
“We’re the same people who voted for you,” he told the council. “Now support us.”
Collectively, residents raised concerns about limited parking, sewer problems, devaluing property and the townhomes not being a good fit for their community.
Councilwoman Marilyn Bellock, who represents the area and lives on Riverview Drive, expressed her support for the residents, but also warned the property is zoned light commercial and that would allow the developer to instead put a commercial operation there.
Councilman Dick Gibbs, who agreed with the potential of the land going commercial per its zoning, agreed with Bellock along with fellow members Wendy Benedetto, Paul Hogan, Mary Clulee, Julia Fisher-Perrier and Traci Fletcher (members Billy Woodruff and Terrell Wilson did not attend the meeting).
Developers Kenneth and DeAndray Martin own the nearly one-acre lot and told the council they intended to put a quality product on the site.
Kenneth Martin Jr. said the project would not negatively impact the community.
“Anything they asked we were willing to do,” Martin said. “We want to put something pleasant … affordable on the property. We make a great product and we comply with everything.”
DeAndray Martin added they’d prefer to build residential on the property.
“I want to give them something that would be better for their neighborhood,” she said.
But residents spoke against the move for nearly two hours to the council.
“To sit on the porch and look directly at this every day, I wouldn’t appreciate it.” — Tim Kelly
Resident Vicki Smith, who has lived in St. Rose for more than 30 years, said when they asked Kenneth Martin to build a single-family dwelling there he replied he’d just build commercial there.
“The four townhomes will cause more infrastructure problems,” Smith said. “I just hope you understand where we’re coming from. These townhomes don’t conform. I invested my life in St. Charles Parish and now you want to put townhomes directly in front of me.”
Resident Tim Kelly said he bought his home there 30 years ago because of the area’s rural atmosphere, which he would like to keep. With more than 100 signatures on a petition opposing the project, Kelly added he isn’t the only one who feels this way.
“I don’t want to live across the street from this,” he said. “To sit on the porch and look directly at this everyday, I wouldn’t appreciate it.”
Bellock emphasized that D Luxe could build a plumbing or trucking business or convenience store there leaving residents no say in the development.
Parish Public Works Director Clayton “Snookie” Faucheux said the parish has invested nearly $1 million in sewer upgrades and another $500,000 to correct a force main is waiting on acquiring two servitudes. This work was initiated and done before the Martins acquired the lot in St. Rose.