A dozen residential developments inside floodplain up for consideration

While Baton Rouge is steeling itself for the possibility of flash floods over the next few days due to a tropical depression stalled over Louisiana, the Planning Commission is preparing for its Sept. 20 meeting, at which it will consider approving no less than a dozen projects located partially or completely in areas at high risk for flooding.

Concerns over drainage and flooding in recent months have led to increased scrutiny of new development in the floodplain, which comprises nearly 50% of East Baton Rouge Parish, and also prompted the Metro Council earlier this month to tighten the rules governing new construction in the floodplain.

But the new rules won’t apply to any of the projects up for consideration at Monday’s meeting because they were filed before the ordinance went into effect. 

Among the projects on the commission’s agenda:

• Silverside Cove, a 22.5-acre subdivision on the east side of Staring Lane comprising 81 zero lot line homes that is 100% in the AE, or high-risk flood zone.

• Maple Cove, an 11-acre subdivision on the north side of Burbank Drive comprising 60 low-density single-family residential units that is 100% in the high-risk flood zone.

• The Garden at Forest Park, a 3.9-acre subdivision on South Harrells Ferry Road comprising 26 zero-lot line single family units that is about 25% in the high-risk flood zone. The Planning Commission denied the request in July, amid neighborhood opposition. But under the law, the developer is allowed to resubmit his application for consideration.

Planning Director Ryan Holcomb says the planning department staff reviewed all the proposed projects and has noted any issues in its report—for instance, if the developments are located in a high-risk flood zone, plan reviewers note that the developers may need to build structures on the site above base flood elevation.

But the department did not recommend denying any of the projects up for consideration, noting that all meet the criteria laid out in the Unified Development Code and are compatible with surrounding land use.

Neighborhood activist Doug Daigle, who has spoken at Metro Council and Planning Commission meetings about the problems caused by development in high-risk flood zones, says given all the recent discussion about the issue and the new city-parish ordinance, he is stunned to see so many projects up for consideration.

“Just the sheer number of projects in the floodplain is really concerning,” he says. “Who is looking at the cumulative effects of all this? And none of these will be impacted by the new moratorium. Someone needs to be looking at the big picture.”

The Planning Commission meets Monday at 4 p.m. in the Metro Council chambers at City Hall.