The Iberia Parish Council denied a variance Wednesday night that could quash almost two-thirds of a proposed residential development.
The developers of The Ridge, a three-phase, 230-site residential development proposed in the Coteau area, were seeking a variance from the parish’s development code to allow high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe to be used for drainage instead of the corrugated concrete called for.
The debate over the variance has been going on for weeks. The issue went before the Iberia Parish Planning Commission, which approved the variance.
But Wednesday night, the council refused the exception in a 6-5 vote.
Concrete is far more expensive than HDPE, which is why the developer was seeking the variance for 60-inch pipe to be used for drainage alongside the roadways in the subdivision. Previously, developers said that if they could not make the substitution, it would make it economically unfeasible to construct Phase 2 or Phase 3 of the project, cutting it from 230 homes to 88 homes.
Robert Guidry, an engineer with The Ridge, said that the pipe used under the roadway would be concrete, as required in the ordinance, but that any pipe not under the road would be plastic. Iberia Parish Planning and Development Director Reed Boudreaux, however, said that a third of the plastic pipe in question was under the road and that all of it was in the road bed.
“If there are problems, we will have to dig up the road to get it out,” Boudreaux said.
Public Works Director Dexter Miguez said he was opposed to the HDPE because it was not as durable.
“I can take you out and show you when we have a problem, it’s the black pipe,” Miguez said.
The council members in favor of the variance argued that the economic impact a 230-unit development would have made it worthwhile to allow the black plastic pipe.
“This is clear that we are within the stipulations of the ordinance,” District 5 Councilman Warren Gachassin said. “I can’t fathom how we could have the chance of failing this tonight. Over 230 units. The council said previously it was against mobile homes. Now we are going to say we are against good development too?”
District 12 Councilwoman Lady Fontenette Brown argued that the standards in the ordinance were designed to protect the residents and should be upheld.
“We can say we are open for business, but business has to be done right,” she said.
Boudreaux said that he does not have a problem with the HDPE pipe if used in the proper environment.
“I think black pipe is not a bad product,” he said. “It’s a great product. But it needs to be outside the road bed. Here, it is under soil, cement and under the curb in many areas.”
“This is the problem,” Gachassin said. “This is why people are moving out of the parish. We had an engineer that told you we are not changing the scope of the drainage. That was the big deal in committee.”
District 6 Councilwoman Natalie Broussard asked Miguez if the parish used the HDPE pipe.
“Yes, we do,” Miguez said.
“Well, I don’t know why we are holding the developer to a different standard,” Broussard said.
“We don’t like using the black pipe because it will deteriorate,” Miguez said. “When we have a problem, it’s always the black pipe.”
He later said that he does not like using the pipe, but has to because of the fiscal restraints in the parish.
“It is the cheapest and the parish doesn’t have any money,” Miguez said.
Iberia Planning Commission Chairman Brock Pellerin said his board approved the variance based on its research.
“We do our homework,” Pellerin said. “We ride out to the site. When you go to this site, you have to cross two HDPE pipes under our roads to get to it.”
He ended his argument with an economic appeal.
“This means more rooftops in the parish,” Pellerin said. “It’s a trickle down effect. I just don’t see how the council could deny something like this.”
District 14 Councilman Chad Maturin said he could not support the variance.
“Everyone around us is going with concrete,” he said, referencing Lafayette and St. Martin parishes. “Now we are saying we are open for business and will do it cheap. How about we worry about the people who are rooted here and say we are going to do it right?”
When votes were cast, Gachassin, Broussard, District 7 Councilman Paul G. Landry, District 3 Councilman Brad Davis, and District 9 Councilman Scott Ransonet voted in favor. District 1 Councilman Tommy Pollard, District 2 Councilman Michael Landry, District 4 Councilman Lloyd Brown, Council Chairman Eugene Olivier and District 12’s Lady Brown and Maturin voted against.