Patterson City Council quashes variances

By: JEAN L. KAESS

In the face of a group split between supporters and detractors, the Patterson City Council unanimously denied a variance for Bethel Pentecostal’s proposed children’s home project.

This does not stop the construction of the home for children of incarcerated mothers. It merely changes plans for the church and its designers.

The home, to be located at 200 Enterprise Ave., came under fire previously during a Patterson Planning Commission meeting and again during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Rev. Marty Harden requested a variance on behalf of his church, Bethel Pentecostal Fellowship, which is constructing the home and an associated warehouse.

Nearby property owners said they don’t like either portion of the project, but can only fight what is in front of them — at this time, a zoning variance.

Two concrete slabs were on the property when it was purchased, and, the reverend said, there is no way to ensure their integrity. In order to utilize one to construct a 50-foot by 100-foot warehouse, Harden said the slab needs to be reinforced by adding a 2-foot by 2-foot footing on the outside of the existing slab.

Because zoning law requires a 5-foot setback from the property line and the slab already is exactly 5 feet from the property line, the church needs the variance to encroach on the required setback.

Those speaking for the variance Tuesday were associated with the church in some way. Those against it were residents in the vicinity of the proposed project.

At the council meeting, Harden was out of town on business but sent a letter read into the record by James Dumas of Bethel Pentecostal who said that over 90 residents south of the tracks attend their church.

“It is our desire to enhance the community,” he read, adding that the church will maintain and construct a facility residents can be proud of.

Dumas also spoke, on his own behalf, in favor of the project stating that the church just wants to do something to help children who “didn’t ask to be born into this world.”

Dana Harden, the pastor’s wife, explained the need for the home.

After working with several different organizations, she was informed that there are more than 700 children in Louisiana whose mothers are incarcerated and have no one else to take them in, forcing them into the foster care system. Obviously, she said, Bethel Pentecostal can’t take them all in, but it can make a difference in their lives.

Chad Nelson, a resident at 515 Mike Dr., said he is in favor of the project.

“I can’t think of anything better to do in this world than to make a difference in the life of a child,” he told the council.

Mike Revage, a resident of Patterson who will live on the property once the project is complete, explained that any building the church constructs will abide by zoning and building restrictions. He said the church was asking for the variance because it was unable to produce the specifications on the slab in question, and to cut the slab would severely damage the structural integrity of the slab.

Stan Robison, a Bayou Vista resident and church patron, voiced his support of the variance, telling the council that the church wants to be good neighbors.

“Whatever happens, the city will be proud,” he said.

In opposition to the project, Brenda Jenkins, 205 Enterprise, said she and her husband, who closed on their home while he was serving in Afghanistan, don’t want to look at a warehouse when they walk out their front door every day.

“As far as the home, I know there’s a need for it. I just didn’t think it would be in my front yard,” she said.

Dustin Domangue (210 Enterprise), Brian Griffin (211 Enterprise) and Clay Jenkins noted that if they have to follow zoning laws and cannot pour slabs for their boats or construct carports that encroach on setbacks, they don’t see why the church should be allowed to do so.

During the meeting, the city council voted to uphold the planning commission’s recommendation to deny the variance. The vote was unanimous after being moved by Larry Mendoza and seconded by Joe Russo.

A second variance request by Nathaniel Clark at 507 Leo Dr., seeking permission to build an awning to park his utility trailer was denied.

The property cannot have a main building constructed because of a pipeline that crosses there. Zoning law requires a main building for an accessory building to be constructed, so the variance is required.

While the planning commission had voted to approve the variance, the city council heard a lone dissenter, Elaine Skinner (532 Leo St.), who said several property owners on Mike Drive are buying property on Leo Drive to place items they don’t want to display, such as utility trailers and campers.

“The 500 block of Leo should look like the 500 block of Mike,” she told the council.

The board voted unanimously to deny Clark’s variance request.

In other action, the board:

—Learned the low bid for the Catherine Street sidewalk project was $94,154 by HHP Construction of LaPlace.

—Set the Halloween observance for Monday, Oct. 31, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., within the city limits of Patterson.

—Took final action granting a franchise agreement to Cleco to operate in Patterson for the next 22 years.

—Took action replacing Keta Allen with Jerolyn Hall on the Patterson housing board.

—Tabled consideration of RV campground codes for development and zoning requirements.

—Tabled discussion on proposed amendments to the code for parking on public streets and to the zoning ordinance for mobile home parks in B-Business zones.

—Tabled discussion of an ordinance related to residential occupation of campers, travel trailers and motor homes.

—Granted a request for a permit for the Patterson Project Graduation can shake Oct. 15, 8 a.m. to noon, at Catherine and Main streets.

—Learned Franklin’s Harvest Moon Festival will be Oct. 29 beginning at 9 a.m.

—Granted a proclamation supporting Red Ribbon Week Oct. 21-30 in St. Mary Parish.

—Heard from Catherine Siracusa concerning black bear conflict resolution.

The entire council was present for Tuesday’s regular meeting.

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