In The News › Parish power shift urged

Jun 10, 2008

Source: Times-Picayune

Filed under: Governance, St. Tammany Parish

Parish power shift urged

Parish power shift urged
New Directions 2025 would have teeth
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
By Charlie Chapple
St. Tammany bureau

Reducing the size of the St. Tammany Parish Council and putting term limits on the parish governing body are the most-discussed elements of a package of proposed Home Rule Charter changes before the council.

Little has been said about a proposed amendment that would force parish government to adhere to a long-range plan for orderly development in the unincorporated areas.

But members of the citizens committee that presented the proposals say the planning amendment, while lost in the debate of the hot-button issues, is probably their most important recommendation.

It would turn New Directions 2025, the parish’s current long-range plan, from an advisory to a legally binding document that would have to be reviewed and updated every two years. It would make the Planning and Zoning commissions a single body with nine members, instead of 11, and would create a committee of planning experts and residents to nominate people to serve on the body.

The commission would be required to hire a director and be able to have a staff that handles most of the duties currently done by the parish Department of Development.

While the suggested changes may appear dramatic, the amendment would merely “put St. Tammany in line with the way a lot of other jurisdictions” handle long-range planning, according to Peter Reichard, research analyst for the Bureau of Governmental Research.

Reichard helped the citizens committee, organized by the League of Women Voters of St. Tammany, write the proposal to revamp the way parish government handles long-range planning.

The proposal, League President Sandra Slifer said, has been reviewed and edited by several local and nationally recognized land use lawyers. And it would ensure that New Directions 2025 is a plan that’s not put on the shelf to gather dust, she said.

Reichard said long-range planning in the Home Rule Charter, which took effect in 2000, has been a gray area — especially as to what effect the parish’s comprehensive plan should have on development decisions. It’s now mostly considered an advisory document by parish officials.

The proposed changes would give New Directions 2025 the force of law and set up a mechanism for mandatory review and revisions “so it can evolve into what it needs to be,” Reichard said.

But whether the citizens committee can persuade a supermajority of the Parish Council to put the charter changes on the ballot remains to be seen. A 10-vote council majority is required to place a charter amendment on the ballot.

“I’ll take a look at each proposal and keep an open mind,” said Councilman Marty Gould of the Covington-Mandeville area. But Gould noted that under the proposal, the council would no longer nominate and appoint Planning and Zoning Commission members. The council could only confirm nominees selected by the parish president.

“They might as well dissolve the council and delegate all the authority to the parish president,” Gould said.

Council Chairman Jerry Binder of Slidell said he plans to call a special meeting for July 30 to debate all the proposed charter amendments. He said he’s sure there will be people who are for and against each proposal, from term limits for council members to reducing the size of the council to the planning amendment.

On the proposed planning amendment, “there are some people who want New Directions 2025 to have the force of law, almost as a legal document from which you have no discretion or leeway,” Binder said. “Most council members have always felt that New Directions 2025 is more of a blueprint or guideline.”

“But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t keep an open mind,” Binder said. “There’s a reason we’re having this meeting . . . and we’re going to hear from everybody.”

. . . . . . .

Charlie Chapple can be reached at cchapple@timespicayune.com or (985) 898-4828.

Jun 10, 2008

Source: Times-Picayune

Filed under: Governance, St. Tammany Parish

Fair Use Notice

This site occasionally reprints copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues and to highlight the accomplishments of our affiliates. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is available without profit. For more information go to: US CODE: Title 17,107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.