Staff to decide fate of subdivision development (whenever Cagnolatti makes assignments) | pelican post

Chairman of the Board John Cagnolatti

After being elected as Ascension parish council president on Jan. 6, John Cagnolatti has yet to make six standing committee assignments (at least, he hasn’t made them public). It could be argued that the most significant appointments will be for staff, as three positions will need to be filled on the seven-member Planning/Zoning Commission. This appointed body decides the fate of each subdivision flat submitted and recommends approval/denial of rezoning applications to the relevant authority.

The Staff Committee is responsible for reviewing candidates for all Nominating Committees, making its recommendations to the full Board which has historically followed staff advice.

With the current moratorium on property developments set to expire on April 15, it’s a safe bet that developers are lining up to file their preliminary plans en masse. As President Clint Cointment is expected to come up with hyper stringent requirements for Ascension development codes, it’s a race to the filing office to have these flats considered before costly mitigation measures are codified to offset the negative impact on drainage/circulation. The administration is targeting March to unveil its recommendations, planning to hold public forums (for a for you traditionalist grammarians).

It remains to be seen whether the Council, as it is currently configured, will adopt the proposals of the executive. Whether or not the governing authority gives Cointment what it wants, it is up to the planning commission to enforce (or not) the unified land use code, drainage regulations, impact studies on traffic, etc.

With the resignation, after seven and a half years, of the President Urbanism/Zoning…

Pryor resigns from his seat on the planning and zoning commissions

the self-proclaimed “pro-development” seat held by Matthew Pryor is up for grabs with the seat made vacant by the resignation of Shannon Hutchings in 2020. Commissioner Ken Firmin, first appointed in 2017, is ready to end it, agreeing to serve until his replacement is appointed by the Council. The terms of three other commissioners (Aaron Chaisson, Wade Schexnaydre and Julio Dumas) are due to expire on February 8, but each will, it is reasonable to assume, be renewed.

This means that the parish council must make six planning/zoning appointments with the philosophical direction of the body to be determined in the process. There is a precedent.

The last parish council made six appointments on March 2, 2016. Considering the nominees in their committee’s ranking order, the staff recommendations to the full council were adopted without exception. The top six (out of 17 candidates), in order:

  • Julio Dumas
  • Antoine Christy
  • Aaron Chaisson
  • Edward Dudley
  • Morrie Bishop (renewal)
  • Douglas Foster

Even though it was a rigged game, the independence of two of the appointees (i.e. they voted to REFUSE too many preliminary subdivision plans) led to their ousting as soon as the pro-Majority Council -development was able to revoke them. Dudley and Foster, appointed to complete the unexpired terms of Gasper Chifici and Josh Ory, received their board papers on March 16, 2017. They were replaced by Ken Firmin and Wade Schexnaydre.

For the first time since late 2011, when an outgoing parish council abolished a nine-member planning commission, the body is not pro-development slanted. That can/will change if three lackeys are appointed to the Commission, to join Julio Dumas and restore the development buffer it has looked like for the better part of a decade (since the reconstitution of a seven-member body on December 19 2011).

Along with Pryor and former commissioner Morrie Bishop, Julio Dumas is as pro-development as he could be.

A Year Ago to the Day: Revisiting the Oak Grove Townhouses Debacle

Chaisson and Schexnaydre opposed a lot of development dishes, sometimes majority and sometimes not. A seventh commissioner, Michael Todd Varnado, is not being reappointed with a term that expires Feb. 8, 2023. First appointed last year, Varnado voted to REFUSE all four preliminary dishes. (Lakes at Henderson Bayou-Townhomes, Longleaf Townhomes, Delaune Estates, and Windermere Crossing – Major Overhaul) appear before the court during his term of office.

With three new faces on the commission, if one of the nominees joins the Chaisson/Schexnaydre/Varnado camp, the development of the housing estate in the parish of Ascension will see a reform. Even more so if the Council enacts the legislation that will be proposed by the Cointment administration. It’s a big…

IF

First, President Cagnolatti must assign five of his colleagues to the staff committee. Last time around three staff members were so determined to send Matthew Pryor back to planning/zoning…

RIGGED! Personnel committee recommends Pryor again for planning commission

that Michael Varnado worked his way up to the commission.

Staff had to reconvene and re-interview eight Planning Commission candidates because Council leadership did not like the results of a February 22 meeting. Varnado was ranked last in February’s rankings, which left Pryor on the outside.

February 22 ranking of planning candidate personnel

So the staff committee chaired by Councilman Corey Orgeron stacked the deck for Pryor in March. Ten months later, and Pryor who bailed them out, announcing his resignation on January 12. Oh, the irony.

Who will make up the staff committee once President Cagnolatti has finished penciling it in. Teri Casso, who chaired the Council last year, set up the five-member panel:

  • President Corey Orgeron
  • Vice President John Cagnolatti
  • Michael Mason
  • Chase Melancon
  • Alvin “Coach Thomas

If Cagnolatti appoints Orgeron to chair a committee, they should both be investigated for wrongdoing. Considering that Orgeron has only attended one parish council meeting since mid-September, he shouldn’t even sit on one of the six standing committees, let alone have a leadership role. With Cagnolatti as chairman of the board, he appreciates Ex officio member of all committees although historically board chairs have not participated in committee deliberations.

Admittedly, there are enough pro-development board members left to rig the game again (Casso, Aaron Lawler, Dempsey Lambert, Alvin Thomas…). With five other standing committees for Cagnolatti on staff, can they all be assigned to staff? And there must also be enough pro-development planning/zoning applicants to stack the bridge with.

Ascension Parish could be on the verge of a tectonic shift away from the development community.

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