Willow Ridge residents withdraw annexation petitions, will likely refile in future

The 13 Willow Ridge homeowners who want to annex out of the prospective city of St. George and into Baton Rouge have all withdrawn their petitions. While that means their requests are no longer up for Metro Council consideration tonight, their petitions might resurface at a later date with additional properties included.

Residents withdrew their requests from the agenda last week, shortly before the council’s last zoning meeting was postponed due to Hurricane Zeta and after the item had already been deferred.

Attorney Charles Landry, who represents the homeowners seeking annexation, says he and his clients did not change their minds about wanting to annex into the city, but rather decided to hold off on going through the Metro Council after being approached by a property owner with “a number of other tracts” who wanted to join them in annexing.

“It would be much better to incorporate all of them at the same time instead of going forward piecemeal. It was easier to withdraw all the existing requests, take this other property into consideration and make a decision on how to go forward,” Landry says, declining to disclose the property owner due to attorney-client privilege. “An opportunity arose, and it’s proper for [the homeowners] to evaluate whether this is good or bad for them. There is plenty of time for them to refile.”

Currently, there’s no estimated timeline for when the item might reappear on the council agenda, says Landry, noting there’s no rush, as the judge presiding over Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s lawsuit against the St. George would determine the prospective city’s effective date of incorporation anyway.

In 2018, Willow Ridge was the only residential neighborhood in its precinct—which is home to more than 2,300 registered voters—that was allowed to vote on the ballot item, and 17 of the 30 residents who cast their vote in the election voted against its incorporation.

Councilmember Dwight Hudson, who planned to vote against the requests before they were pulled, says he thinks it would’ve been a “really close vote” but declined to speculate on what the outcome might’ve been. The petitions needed seven affirmative votes to pass.

“Several council people recognized it was going to cause some serious issues with delivery of basic municipal services—like sewage, drainage and road maintenance—and we needed to be careful about how we proceeded,” Hudson says. “If you start creating these little pockets within individual subdivisions, it sets a lot of precedents.”

In September, 26 other Willow Ridge residents pushed back against their neighbors’ annexation requests for the same reason. HOA president Keith Richardson, who is among those opposed to the annexation requests, declined to comment for this story.

Meanwhile, Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel says all the city-parish departments have confirmed that these 13 annexation requests would not be a cost impediment to the city.