Parish Unified Development Code to be discussed at workshop

A workshop will be held at the parish council meeting room at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the courthouse to discuss the Unified Development Code a new ordinance defining restrictions and allowances for developments in the unincorporated areas of St. Mary Parish.
Although the UDC is new and contains new provisions, the bulk of it is a compilation of the existing airport zoning, bunkhouse, flood damage prevention, manufactured homes and parks, subdivision and development, and zoning ordinances, according to an explanatory document provided by the parish council administration.
Existing structures and uses that were legally permitted or allowed prior to adoption of the UDC may continue without penalty or modification but may be classified as non-conforming. Ceasing operation for more than six months, abandonment or substantial modification may jeopardize the non-conforming permitted use and force compliance with the parameters in the UDC, according to the proposed ordinance.
“There were no changes to the Airport Zoning, Bunkhouse or Flood Damage Prevention ordinances,” according to the document. “The primary areas that were focused on were clarifying and making changes to the Manufactured Home & Park, Subdivision & Development and Zoning ordinances so that these ordinances would not contradict each other and have clear definitions/requirements,” the document stated.
“Upon reviewing the UDC – Unified Development Code, please note that the purpose of the UDC is not to cause hardship to the constituents of the parish, but to meet the growing needs that have been observed over the course of the last 10 years since the original zoning ordinance was adopted. In addition, the Subdivision/Development ordinance has not been updated since it was established in 1985,” it said.
The parish adopted numerous development ordinances after the explosive growth of the oil boom in the late 1970s and early 1980s led to developments throughout the parish with shell roads, insufficient drainage and lack of sewage connections. Frustrated residents then sought costs and/or responsibility for remediation from the parish rather than the original developer. The development ordinances were adopted to ensure that developments were done properly with no ancillary costs shifted to taxpayers.
The full 172-page UDC ordinance along with the six-page parish administration explanation highlighting new and changed items can be viewed at www.stmarynow.com.
New items receiving regulatory attention include recreational vehicles, parks and campgrounds; dirt pits; ponds; fences (masonry or over six feet tall); and non-residential dumpsters.
Dirt pits will be required to follow specific criteria as to depth, visibility and end-of-life procedures. Ponds will need to have specific ownership defined along with permanent responsibility defined and assigned for them. Recreational vehicle parks will have to comply with general development rules to ensure adequate space, street width, parking and hookups. New fences made of masonry or more than six feet in height will have to secure a permit for construction.
Dumpsters in non-residential buildings are required to be large enough or sufficient in number for one week’s worth of trash. They must be “located in an enclosed (fenced) area, paved with asphalt or concrete and provided with coping on three sides and a floor drain connected to the sanitary sewer,” according to Section 2.3.1 of the UDC.
Major new developments or major expansion of existing developments will also have to supply a traffic study and a drainage impact study as part of the approval process. Servitudes must be provided and delineated in the design.
Residential zoning will see some reclassification and a completely new classification called “Traditional Neighborhood Development,” where business and residential units are mixed in a planned development.
Parking, loading areas and traffic compatibility issues are addressed to ensure adequate space and minimal traffic interruption in unincorporated areas.
Bufferyards are a new feature of the UDC and are primarily called for when two differing zones intersect with each other along common areas. For example, a business area abutting a residential zone will be required to buffer between the areas with distance and line-of sight structures to minimize the encroachment.
The workshop meeting will be held on the fifth floor of the courthouse and is open to the public.

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