City council delays Delacroix decision

DEIDRE CRUSE, Governmental Reporter

The Plaquemine Board of Selectmen last week delayed a decision on allowing a commercial adult care home to operate on residentially zoned Delacroix Avenue, whose residents are opposing the “special use” zoning that would allow it to continue.

“If they're zoned to operate that business, then it's all over with,” a 50-year Delacroix resident told the city council. “It opens it up for other types of businesses.”

Amah Young, who are applying for the permit to care for elderly adults in his home, said the five seniors ages 85-95 that live there are “no threat to the community.”

The Plaquemine Planning and Zoning Board sent the issue to the city council without recommendation. Delacroix residents told the board they feared their property values would decline because of the business.

“My property is worth 50 percent more than every other house around me,” Young told the city council.

Although few residents spoke up at the city council meeting, they attended en masse.

After discussing the issue for about an hour last Tuesday, Mayor Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta broke a 3-3 tie, and the issue was tabled at least until next month.

Selectman Oscar Mellion, who moved to table the issue, said he had not been able to read all the information, but had visited the home.

“I just think we need to do a little more research,” Mellion said, asking the council to delay the decision “till we can fine a common ground among the residents, the owners and the attorneys.”

“I would like to sit down and meet with the attorneys as quick as possible,” Gulotta said after the vote.

Young, who is seeking the permit for his home at 58765 Delacroix Avenue, described a series of unsuccessful attempts to get a city occupational license for the business, which he operates with him mother, Cynthia Young.

“We submitted application after application, and you refused,” he said.

He said he had a 60-second meeting last spring with City Attorney L. Phillip Canova Jr., City Inspector Brandon Mellieon and Selectman Timothy L. Martinez, who represents the area and who reported complaints about the business operating on Delacroix.

“I know for a fact there is no additional traffic,” Young said. “There is no sign out front...No one knew the business was there.”

“You have been operating this business without a license since 2006,” said Selectman Lindon A. Rivet Jr.

For several years, Young said, they cared for only one adult at a time at the home and required no state license. Now, he said, they are seeking state operating licenses. The state Department of Health and Hospitals has issued a license for their kitchen, he said, and they have spent $20,000 on fire safety systems to meet State Fire Marshal requirements.

“We have followed every regulation,” Young's attorney, Jennifer Thomas, said. “...There are indications that a special use permit is not needed for a private residence.”

Young said the state Department of Social Services told him that in Iberville Parish, zoning and an occupational license is not required.

Mayor Gulotta said Iberville Parish night not have zoning, but the City of Plaquemine has had it on the books since 1959.

“Everything I've heard about the home is nothing but good,” the mayor said. “...But, that's not the issue before us today.”

He said the city denied the occupational licenses because Young did not have the proper zoning.

The city council changed zoning laws last year to create special use permits for commercial businesses to operate in areas zoned for residential use, Gulotta said. That would allow the council to allow beauty shops or similar businesses to operate in private homes, but would limit the property owner to the specific business permitted. If the property were sold, the permit would be discontinued.

“Only the individual who owns the property can operate that business,” he said. “They can't sell it.”

Before the change, Young would have had to have C-6 commercial zoning, the mayor said. A change to C-6 zoning also would have been permanent and would have allowed many other types of businesses to operate at the address.

“It was the only thing the council could do to accommodate business,” Gulotta said of the old law. “They very next day, they could say they wanted to open a grocery store or some other type of business. That's why we changed the law last year.”

Voting to table the issue were Mellion, Jimmie Randle, who seconded the motion, and Ralph J. Stassi Jr.

Voting against the motion were Rivet, Martinez and Michael “Mickey” Rivet, who oppose the special use permit.