Audubon Terrace and Morning Glen residents are pushing back against requests to rezone residential lots for office use on the edge of their neighborhood, located at the busy intersection of Siegen Lane and Interstate 10, near St. George Catholic Church.
Increased traffic congestion at an already busy intersection is at the heart of the opposition by the neighborhoods, which has only one access road to Siegen. If an office complex were built, more people would have to drive through Audubon Terrace to get there. Homeowners also cite a deed restriction limiting property use to residential only.
But the lots in question are prime real estate, sitting vacant at the highly visible corner of two of Baton Rouge’s most-trafficked roadways.
The property owners—the Metrailer family, whose late patriarch Ed Metrailer was one of the developers of the subdivision—want to rezone the lots from residential to office because it would be a more suitable use for the property.
The East Baton Rouge Planning and Zoning Commission will vote on the rezoning requests at its Jan. 22 meeting, and planning staff has already recommended approval.
“The property is not desirable for single-family residential use,” says Planning Director Frank Duke. “I’m sympathetic to the neighborhood regarding traffic issues. But has anyone put a home on those lots in the last 20 years?”
Audubon Terrace and Morning Glen residents, however, plan to attend the upcoming meeting in hopes of defeating the rezoning requests.
“Our residents have said no, we oppose this,” homeowner association president Bill Gibson says, speaking on behalf of the residents. “The neighborhood is all residential. Our roads are narrow. It was never designed for commercial traffic.”
Kinglet Drive is the only way in and out of the subdivision, where traffic is already “a nightmare,” Gibson says, especially with St. George church and school traffic. Other resident concerns include potential drainage and noise issues if the property is rezoned.
Residents also cite the deed restriction. But the city-parish does not honor deed restrictions because they are civil matters, Duke says, so the neighborhood would have to enforce them, not the parish.
Gibson says there are plenty of past court cases across the state where neighborhood deed restrictions have been upheld on property that has been rezoned.
Arthur Metrailer, one of the nine children of Ed and Martha Metrailer, filed the rezoning request and says he recognizes the potential for future development on the lots, which have sat vacant for decades.
“No one wants to live next to the interstate,” he says. “We’re talking about the corner of Siegen Lane and I-10. What’s on the other three corners?”
But Metrailer is also sympathetic to the residents’ concerns.
“My family is kind of tied to Audubon Terrace so I’m willing to listen,” Metrailer says, adding he’s been in contact with the homeowners association. “Maybe we can improve the streets so it wouldn’t be such a burden. We might be able to improve the situation at the end of the day.”