Standing-room-only P&Z crowd voice concerns over proposed development
Cite 2003 ordinance: ‘some uses are incompatible with the desired nature of the corridor’
UPDATE: July 4, 2021, at 2:05 PM — Corrects date of next Planning & Zoning meeting to July 13th.
MANDEVILLE — A proposed carwash for West Causeway Approach abutting a residential neighborhood met stiff resistance at a standing-room-only Planning & Zoning Commission meeting tonight (June 22, 2021).
More than 70 locals packed the Paul Spitzfaden Community Center to voice their concerns over a proposal which would construct a 4,320-square-foot building on a 200-by-400-foot property on the east side of West Causeway Approach, which abuts Fontainebleau Subdivision. The properties to the north and south both have office buildings on them. Skipper Drive is directly across from the site.
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Rhonda Alleman, President of the Fontainebleau Homeowners Association, made an impassioned plea to the commission to deny the request, citing city code, Ordinance No. 03-13:
“West Causeway Approach corridor has developed into an area characterized by residential uses, light commercial and office uses and … The City Council wishes to maintain this character of the corridor, and … some uses are incompatible with the desired nature of the corridor,” she quoted.
“So as we address a permit for a densely commercial, high volume car wash in an already established corridor of office and residential, one would have to ask, how could this happen,” she said.
More than a dozen other residents spoke at the meeting, echoing Ordinance No. 03-13’s language of “incompatible” to describe the proposed carwash. They all expressed similar concerns: the noise of the vacuums, glare from the lights, water runoff, environmental concerns over oil and waste, heavier traffic near in an already heavily trafficked school zone area, and attracting crime to the area.
The property was annexed into the City of Mandeville in 2003 and zoned as Planned Combined Use (PCUD). The proposed use in this application is permitted with the approval of a zoning permit, or “Special Use Permit.”
According to information released by the Planning and Development Department, a zoning permit was approved in 2014 for the previous property owner, who also proposed a carwash facility, but that approval was contingent on special conditions, including restricting hours of operation, noise, and signage among other things.
Planning and Development Director Cara Bartholomew told the commission that those special conditions do not carry over to this application.
Chris Donner, the developer of the proposed carwash, said he would like to keep many of those conditions in his plans for this carwash. Donner said he is a longtime resident of St. Tammany Parish and desires to create a development that is compatible with the area.
Donner listened to the myriad complaints and near the end of the meeting he attempted to address those concerns. Among other things he said he is working with the Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission (GNOEC) to allay traffic concerns. The GNOEC has traffic oversight over West Causeway Approach.
The proposed carwash’s water recovery and filter system is state of the art and doesn’t pollute the environment, he added.
A minor dustup occurred in the closing minutes when Donner cited a noise study that downplayed the noise threat from carwashes, to which a number a those in attendance reacted sharply. When pressed by members of the commission, Donner admitted the study was subjective.
District I Councilwoman Rebecca Bush also spoke against the proposed development, which would be built in her district.
Tonight (June 22, 2021) was a “work” session which means the issue was discussed but not voted on. The Planning & Zoning Commission would vote at its next meeting July 13th at 6:30 p.m.
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