Baton Rouge Sierra Club has beef with plans for Burbank subdivision

    Citing August’s historic flood, the Baton Rouge Group of the Sierra Club is raising concerns about a 102-lot subdivision that, if approved, will be built in a flood zone along Burbank Drive, just south of Highland Road.

    The Willows at Bayou Fountain subdivision, the local environmental organization says in a prepared statement, is proposed to be constructed on a site classified as an AE flood zone, an area inundated by a 1% yearly chance of flooding.

    The city-parish Planning Commission will consider today approving the preliminary site plan for the 85-acre tract subdivision. The development’s manager, Windy Gladney, says a request to rezone the property will be heard in January. A vote on the subdivision was deferred last month at the request of a citizen. 

    The local Sierra Club chapter is adding its voice to the discussion, though the Planning Commission has no record of its concerns. The chapter issued a statement raising flags about the planned development.

    The Baton Rouge group is urging caution for full-scale development in flood plains and other low-lying areas—especially in the wake of the summer flood.

    “The ongoing development of low-lying areas along Burbank Drive and the Highland Ridge raises concerns about increased drainage and flooding problems,” Sam Wilcher, an executive committee member for the Baton Rouge Group of the Sierra Club, says in a statement. “The area did flood in March and again in August of 2016. Many areas along Burbank contain some wetlands, but are all indicative of the natural, permeable surfaces (fields, woods, wetlands) being covered by impermeable surfaces (roads, parking lots) across the Baton Rouge area.”

    The local group says developing within a flood plain could be dangerous if flooding on other sites is exacerbated, even when developers try to responsibly design projects. The group also says the FuturEBR master plan is largely being ignored when it comes to the protection and management of flood plains.

    Approximately 50,579 East Baton Rouge homes were damaged in the August flood, a city-parish report says. Most were not in a flood plain, and most—84%—of those homeowners did not have flood insurance.

    Gladney admits the subdivision’s site is in a flood zone. As a result, the subdivision’s garden-style homes will be elevated one foot above the base flood elevation as required, he says.

    Gladney says he hasn’t heard directly from the local Sierra Club. Engineers working on the project are adhering to the city-parish’s law governing flood mitigation, he says, adding that additional space for water storage will be created.

    Residential lots in the Willows at Bayou Fountain will span roughly 6,000 square feet. The homes would only be accessible by a private street, and the subdivision will have a commercial component.

    Dirt will be redistributed on the site to help build up the land, Gladney says, adding that the area did flood in August.

    “It didn’t flood beyond what we were expecting,” he says.

    The city-parish Planning Commission will meet at 5 p.m. today at 222 St. Louis St.

    See the today’s agenda.

    —Alexandria Burris 

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