BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Despite pushback, people who live near Highland Road and Bluebonnet Boulevard may not be able to stop development of a proposed apartment complex and parking spaces.
After Monday’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, it was revealed the current zoning for @Highland allows for an expansion — despite the uproar.
“There seems to be a misunderstanding that it’s going to make it go away,” said District 12 East Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman Jen Racca.
The application for the rezoning was submitted May 6, 2021. Since then, the proposal received a lot of backlash.
“Most people think that if they oppose the small plan unit development that the ability to build an apartment complex in this area will dissipate or despair, that is not the case at all,” said Racca.
According to the application, the area is currently zoned as a LC2 for a General Office High Rise (GOH), Light Commercial Two (LC2). This allows the developer to build a similar plan on the property.
“We have the ability to do more. What we asked for was to reduce the footprint rather than allow us to continue with the existing footprint,” said CSRS’ Vice President of Government Advisory Practice Walter Monsour.
The recently submitted application is a Small Planned Unit Development (SPUD) and includes plans for residential, parking, office and retail spaces.
“Our vision for the property is for an eat, work and play type of environment campus for the technical people who work at general informatics @Highland,” said Monsour.
He confirmed although it will be a “eat, work and play” campus, the proposed apartment units will not be exclusively to people who will work at the companies on the campus.
Monday, the Commission did not read the 216 online comments opposing the project. Instead, they allowed people who attended the meeting to speak during public comments. Although there are hundreds of emails, phone calls and speeches, Racca said it comes down to a possible legal battle the city-parish is not willing to take on.
“I understand the opposition, I understand the flooding and zoning, I understand the drainage issues, I understand the traffic concerns and all those things, but we can only do what we can within the confines of the law. I’ve also talked to the Parish Attorney’s office because some people have said they want this property to be nothing more than residential. So we researched that to see if the property could ever be, in a perfect world, rezoned to residential based upon the area and the reliance on the developer and the other businesses that it could be zoned, as it is, would cause a substantial lawsuit and would leave the city liable,” said Racca.
The next step is to take the plans before the Metro-Council on July 21st. Racca said, she can defer the item on the agenda and allow more discussion to help people get a better understanding of what the options are.