Proposed Lakes at Jones Creek development, which led to building standards changing, resurfaces

Tuesday, 05 December 2017, 06:14:10 AM. A subdivision development proposal that led to serious debates a few months ago about post-flood building standards in Baton Rouge has resurfaced, with the developer saying he has now gone

A subdivision development proposal that led to serious debates a few months ago about post-flood building standards in Baton Rouge has resurfaced, with the developer saying he has now gone above and beyond to make the area safer from floods. But some nearby neighbors remain unconvinced.

Developer Steven Duplechain recently submitted his new plans for the Lakes at Jones Creek subdivision near the intersection of Jones Creek Road and Coursey Boulevard. When the 425-lot development's first iteration came before local leaders earlier this year, people who live in nearby subdivisions begged City Hall to consider the nightmares they endured after flooding in August 2016.

They argued that adding more pavement in such proximity to Jones Creek could make such floods more frequent and more disastrous. In response, Metro Council members changed the Unified Development Code to specify that new developments must be able to store water from a 25-year storm, as opposed to the previously required 10-year storm requirement.

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Duplechain agreed to rework his Lakes at Jones Creek proposal, which he says now far exceeds the city-parish's building standards. The city-parish Planning Commission is expected to consider the proposal at its Dec. 18 meeting.

The Lakes at Jones Creek could now hold enough water to account for a 500-year storm, Duplechain said Monday. Though Duplechain has kept the same number of lots, he said the development would be able to hold the extra water through a series of ponds on the property.

One change from his first proposal is that the ponds would be deeper, larger and capable of holding more water. Slightly more than half of the Lakes at Jones Creek property would be the ponds and greenspace, Duplechain said.

BR developer to reconsider plan for controversial new subdivision after neighbors voice flooding fears

Still, he did not predict that his proposed changes would temper the anger over the development.

"Those neighbors, whether they believe it or not, are more safe with us doing this development than not doing it," Duplechain insisted. "We will be able to detain more water in a developed state than in the condition it exists today."

Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso and Woodland Ridge Homeowners' Association President M.E. Cormier are in the "nonbeliever" category. Cormier's home is north of the proposed Lakes at Jones Creek and she said the proposed subdivision is another example of overdeveloping a high-risk floodplain.

After more than a foot of water flooded her home in August 2016, it took half a year until her family could return. She said the greenspace where Duplechain wants to build the subdivision helped to mitigate the amount of flood water her home received.

Cormier said her flood insurance covered less than half the total repair cost. She swore that if her home floods again, her family would gut it, sell it and move to the highest ground possible.

"I used my entire life savings to pay for the difference," Cormier said. "We couldn't afford it, financially or emotionally, to do this again."

Cormier and other homeowner association presidents have vowed to fight the Lakes at Jones Creek again. Amoroso is on their side. He said he met with Duplechain to see the development's proposed changes, but the differences between the new version of the Lakes at Jones Creek and the previous version are barely noticeable.

The land would be better off as a dedicated greenspace or park, Amoroso said. But Duplechain disagreed, saying the $1 million parcel of land is worth too much.

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The city-parish planning staff had not completed its review of the Lakes at Jones Creek proposal on Monday, said Planning Director Frank Duke. He said they expect to post their staff report about it by the end of the week.

At the same time, two major reviews are under way that could affect how Baton Rouge developers build in floodplains. HNTB has recently started work on a stormwater master plan for the city-parish, while city-parish planning and development staff continue to review the local floodplain ordinance at the Metro Council's direction.

Duke expects to seek comments on the floodplain ordinance in the next few weeks. He wants Ascension and Livingston parishes, the municipalities of Baker, Central and Zachary and the Baton Rouge Growth Coalition and Federation of Greater Baton Rouge Civic Associations to have a chance to weigh in.

After review, he will send any proposed revisions to the Metro Council for approval, which he hopes can happen by early February. Duke has also said he expects to make a second round of recommendations on the floodplain ordinance upon completion of the stormwater master plan.

Advocate staff writer Steve Hardy contributed to this report.

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