Southeast
DAVID GRUNFELD

LA - Parish president calls for pause on some residential development

St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper said last week he wants a parishwide ban on any rezoning that would make residential developments more dense, a move he says is needed to allow the parish to catch up with rampant growth.

St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper said last week he wants a parishwide ban on any rezoning that would make residential developments more dense, a move he says is needed to allow the parish to catch up with rampant growth.

The St. Tammany Parish Council will have to approve the measure, and March 3 is the earliest it could vote on it.

Under Cooper's proposed ordinance, no one would be allowed to apply for a zoning change that would increase the number of homes allowed on a parcel of land to more than one house per acre.

That restriction would be in place for six months but could be extended, in six-month intervals, by a council vote.

This isn't the first time a moratorium has been used to control growth — a ban on new residential development along La. 22 until traffic capacity is increased in western St. Tammany has been in place for four years. But Cooper's proposal is the most sweeping effort to rein in residential development in a parish that has seen explosive growth for decades and has been struggling with increased traffic and flooding, and, Cooper said, strains on water and sewerage utilities.

Census data for 2020 shows the population in parts of western St. Tammany — and a pocket along Lake Pontchartrain in the Slidell area — has grown at a 25%-plus clip over the past decade. Population in some areas of central St. Tammany has grown at a lower rate, but still showed increases of 5%-25%.

The recent census pegged the parish's population at nearly 265,000.

The call for a moratorium is likely to stir controversy among developers, who have wielded a lot of influence in St. Tammany. Jeff Schoen, a development attorney, said he was caught by surprise since no one in the local development industry had been made aware that such a moratorium was being considered.

"I'm surprised the parish president feels that there are moratorium conditions that exist throughout the entirety of the parish," Schoen said, noting that moratorium ordinances are typically region-specific.

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