City Council OK’s controversial rezoning ordinance

Published 8:14 am Monday, November 10, 2014

The Bogalusa City Council revisited on Wednesday a controversial proposed ordinance tabled at the Oct. 21 meeting.

After many of the same proponents and opponents of the measure to rezone the old Coney Flowers American Legion Post No. 547 at 544 East Ave. from A-3 Residential to B-Business made their remarks, lawmakers voted 4-1 in favor of the measure. District B Councilman Michael O’Ree made the motion to accept the ordinance, and District A Councilwoman Oneita Graham seconded the motion. District D Councilman Teddy Drummond cast the lone dissenting vote. Council Vice President Wendy Perrette and District E Councilman Randy Hodges were absent.

Loud music, trash and heavy traffic on narrow streets were the major reasons opponents spoke out against the ordinance. Ordinance opponent the Rev. Theodore Newman, who lives nearby on May Avenue, spoke out once again against the measure. But as in the previous meeting, Newman was outnumbered by proponents of the measure, including reception hall co-owner Doris Dawson, along with three others.

“I did speak with residents in the neighborhood about it,” O’Ree said. “There were four people against it, but the rest of them had no problem with it. I’ll say again that if four people can control the direction of this city, then we’ve got a sad situation. If it was something horrible, I’m sure more than two people would be up here. I’m in favor of it. Nobody since I’ve been here has been shot and killed down there.”

District A Councilwoman Penny Williams agreed with O’Ree.

“I hung out at that place when I was younger. I’ve asked the neighbors if noise was a problem. Only four people said it was a problem,” she said.

Drummond brought up the issues of added security and forcing the establishment to maintain set hours. He was advised the city couldn’t enforce those issues.

“We can’t enforce it, but we can call the police for any given reason,” O’Ree said. “I don’t know of any neighborhood that is free of music.”

Newman said the same problems with the establishment exist today as when he petitioned to close the business in 1987.

“The number one problem is traffic,” Newman said. “Every street from Florence Avenue all the way down is one way. There is no room for two-way traffic. You’re going to definitely have traffic problems if the Council OK’s this business to be open. We would have been better off if it just opened as a bar room.”

Dawson, who represented the opposing viewpoint, said the building is good for the community.

“We’re trying to have this building for recreation in the community,” Dawson said. We’re not open every day. We never wanted a bar. We never did.”

In other business, the Council voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Charles Mizell to enter into a grant agreement with the State Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, Office of Cultural Development and Division of Historic Preservation.

“This is the second year in a row Bogalusa has been awarded this grant,” City Personnel Director Sandy Bloom said. “We get $7,000 and have to match it. We’ll hire a consultant to take surveys of certain areas. The purpose of the surveys is to allow FEMA to use it and help document what historic structures we have and raise awareness. It helps property owners restore them, if needed.”

Bloom said the first phase of the grant was used in the downtown historic district. Other areas the city is looking to improve include the area around the courthouse, areas in Richardsontown and areas east of Louisiana Highway 21.

“This will be good for us in the future to be able to inform people if they have an historic structure,” Bloom said. “We’re taking it in small steps.”

Bloom also outlined seven new capital outlay projects the city has submitted to the state. Projects include Industrial Park Road; water, natural gas, sewer and other infrastructure; drainage, paving and water system improvements; East Fourth Street and Avenue U; the planned extension of Willis Avenue; an emergency sewer collection system; the community center; and Cassidy Park.

“We have been successful in getting money for Cassidy Park for things like the splash pad,” Bloom said. “Cassidy Park is our capstone to the city. We will continue to ask for money for Cassidy Park.”