The Director of the East Baton Rouge parish Library, Spencer Watts gave an overview of the
new proposed Rouzan Branch of the South Library; which is currently in the appraisal stage. It was noted that the library system cannot pay more than the appraised land value and further stated that the landowners may donate the needed discount on the value of the property.
Nicole Learson, a professional registered Parliamentarian, certified through the National
Association of Parliamentarians presented “Myth Busting 101: Robert’s Rules of Order”. Her interactive presentation engaged audience members in a manner that allowed them to better understand proper parliamentary procedure which is vitally important to conducting official business in an unbiased and fair manner.
Margrett Fels, Federation Secretary presented a synopsis of
the Baton Rouge Health District, a Small Area Plan which encompasses Essen Lane
to Bluebonnet and Siegen Lane. It builds on the FUTUREBR foundation to first
establish a plan for the future with infrastructure investments, creating a
connected network of major street/urban arterials to be able to access the new
Health District, which will shape the growth of Baton Rouge supporting healthy
Nancy Curry, Fed. President, reviewed the Land Use section of FUTUREBR. She pointed out that there are two uses of the word Character in the UDC. One is a legal term defining one of the four districts. The second refers to the characteristics or look of an Area that people recognize. She advised all in attendance to review the weekly Planning Commission agendas and identify developments near their subdivisions that may be requesting a change in present use or zoning, as zoning changes can change the characteristics of an area, and more importantly, such changes can have a “domino effect” on homes near the proposed development.
D’Antoni, from Santa Maria recapped the struggle Santa Maria residents
experienced with Blue Bayou Water Park. She said homeowners need to educate themselves on the code to be able to
successfully argue the points at planning commission meetings and urged
residents to meet with developers/applicants at the onset to ensure clear
understanding of existing residents needs and wants.
John Eustis of The Gulf Restoration Network (GNR) gave a
very informative and educational presentation regarding the Amite River and its loss of floodplain which
is in part due to the thousands of abandoned sand and gravel mines. The abandoned sand and gravel mines have
caused the river’s water flow to increase as its natural curves were
straightened resulting in river flow rate increases which caused the greater
amount of economic damage during floods. GRN encouraged members to contact their legislators and ask them to
appropriate money to remedy the problem as well as to sign GRN’s petition for
Warren Drake, Superintendent of EBR Parish Schools, outlined how the renewed $0.01 cent sales tax would be used which is as follows: 51% to building renovations, 8% to Truancy and Alternative Education programs and 41% to salary and benefits for EBR Parish teachers, to offer them a more competitive salary.
He also noted that EBR Parish currently have 10 National Blue Ribbon Schools, with several more planned in the proposed St. George area. (currently unincorporated Baton Rouge City Limits). The renewal of the 1 cent sales tax (in place since 1998) election will be held on April 28, 2018.
Darryl Gissel, Chief Administrative Assistant to Mayor Broome who heads the Mayor’s Blight Strike Team whose purview ranges from Blight Code Enforcement to Blight Court advised that the city/parish has seven Community Outreach workers who will assist with all reported blight problems.
Murphy Paul, Chief of Police for the City of Baton Rouge stated that he is working to create policies to change culture and shape attitudes between the community and the police. He reviewed his 6 point strategy which is:
(a) to create a mission-focused organization to reduce crime, specifically the high murder rate in Baton Rouge;
(b) to use “Hot Spot Policing” for the 7% of individuals that cause most of the violence;
(c) to build trust in the police department through a vibrant community policing program;
(d) to cultivate integrity and accountability within the department;
(e) to create a plan for efficient use of technology and
(f) to communicate effectively with key audiences.
The Chief believes that this strategy will achieve the goal of creating safe environments for all residents of Baton Rouge. Additionally, there was much discussion about the use of technology and concerns about specific instances involving the BRPD. All questions, comments and concerns from the floor were noted by the Chief’s accompanying staff; attending with Chief Paul were Captain Windham & Deputy Chief Tweedy.
The planned agenda item of the pro’s & cons of using credit cards to pay for Home Owner Association, Civic Association and the Federation’s dues was raised for discussion. Of those in attendance, it was determined that only two of our affiliates accepted PayPal as a method of payment for annual dues.
Noted that information relative to establishing PayPal accounts were discussed with attendees.
The Federation’s Drainage Committee presented its recommended revisions to chapter 15 of
the UDC titled “Floodways, Floodplains, Drainage and Erosion” which received member approval after review of the changes.
date for submission is on or before January 12, 2018 for consideration.
Adam Smith from Republic waste management advised that Baton Rouge renewed its contract for another 5 years. He further explained what would be disposed of via their service related to the 2016 flood as many people are still in the process of rebuilding.
Ms. Nelle Fruge, EBR Parish Code Enforcement Manager, explained the procedure for reporting blight problems, noting that some code enforcement has been suspended by the Metro-Council due to the continuing negative impact on many residents by the flood of August, 2016. The number to call to report blight problems is “311”. Should the infraction not be cleared, the incident may result in a lien being placed on the property which must be paid through property taxes. Ms. Fruge stated that approximately 31,700 homes were flooded in August, 2016, representing 56% of the homes in EBR Parish.
Don Frattini and Mike Hayes delivered a slide presentation on the impact of State Legislative House Bill 51, regarding the application of the Louisiana Sales Tax on Homeowner and Civic Associations with entertainment or recreation facilities being rented or used by non-members is due to go into effect in the 2nd quarter of 2016. Although HB 51 was changed back to the original content, a question remains as to whether or not some HOAs/CAs that charge non-resident guests to use their facilities would be liable for the taxes as this is income/profit.
Ms. Tessier, Community Outreach Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity, explained the purpose and function of that organization. Baton Rouge is in the top 45 cities nationwide in homes built by them. Inner Wheel raises money for non-profit organizations, such as St. Vincent de Paul Hospice, ALS, etc. Their upcoming events were announced.
Adam Smith, EBR Department of Environmental Services, introduced Ms. Scozzafava and Mr. Snow, who were retained to conduct a study for the EBR Parish Solid Waste Strategic Planning and Procurement. They explained the process for funding of the services, stating that the current contract expires February 18, 2018. Their task is to determine what the public needs from a solid waste disposal standpoint. Members attending were able to fill out their survey concerning desired services.
Carrie Broussard, City Parish Planner/Planning Commission, explained changes to the FuturEBR plan, especially those regarding Land Use.
Eric Romero and Warren Kron, GIS Specialists with the City Parish, gave a presentation showing attendees how to use OPEN DATA and the GIS mapping component of the Ctiy’s website (www.brla.gov). They demonstrated with their map showing crime statistics by area.
Ms. Maimuna McGee, City Parish Attorney, discussed the intricacies of how to create a “No Solicitation subdivision”.
Dr. Chandra Theegala, LSU Professor, gave a detailed Power Point presentation relative to the flood of August, 2016. He defined the basic terms and concepts regarding storm water management, such as watershed, wetlands, flood plain, Riparian zones, etc. He drew distinctions between the terms as they relate to drainage issues.
Nancy Curry, Federation President, announced that the City Parish has issued a waiver of certain ordinances which prohibit parking of mobile homes in A-1 residential neighborhoods and the parking of cars in front of a residence on the grass. The waived ordinances were in response to a temporary emergency request to aid the recovery effort for victims of the August, 2016 flood. Homeowner and Civic Associations may still enforce their subdivision’s restrictions, however the City Parish cannot interfere with these private contracts between homeowners. A Notary has to draw up a document expressing the acknowledgement of the person requesting a waiver that the prescription period will not run so long as the City’s waiver is in effect.
Ms. Curry also reported on the 3-day seminar, Safely Share the Road, which she attended. It was sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development as part of the Regional Planning Commission. She presented a Power Point slide show which highlighted ways for vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists to safely share road space.
No General Meeting held.
Bill DeVille, Chief Executive Officer for the Capital Area Transportation System (CATS), has been in office since October, 2016. He outlined his vision and plans for CATS, which includes bringing Baton Rouge’s mass transit system, up to speed in the next 3-5 years to keep up with the changing demographics of EBR Parish.
Mary Manheim, retired LSU Forensic Anthropologist; Coleman Brown, Architect with Coleman Brown & Associates; Becky Bond, Construction Project Management company owner; Dr. Rodney Hendrik, LA. Urban Storm Water Coalition; and Chauna Banks, Metro Councilwoman, District 2; spoke in opposition to moving the BREC Zoo and challenging the data in the “Friends of the Zoo” report.
NOTE: Phil Frost, Zoo Director, and BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight, as well as board members of the BREC Zoo were invited to attend and declined.
Susan Teddlie, President of Magnolia Woods Civic Association, and Attorney Scott Frazier of the law firm, Kracht & Frazier, presented a case study on “How we filed suit against the City”. The suit involved the City allowing Mount Hope Plantation to enlarge developments on this historic property based on outdated plans.
Mary Stewart and Jeff Mohr alerted members to a developer’s intent to build 425 homes in an area which was almost totally flooded in August, 2016. The adjacent subdivision, Country Manor, fears drainage and traffic problems will result from this development.
Ms. Lynn Maloney, a member of the Complete Streets Committee (CSC) along with Federation President Nancy Curry, explained the function of the Sustainable Transportation Action Committee (SATC) and their cooperative endeavors to make Mid-City a Complete Street community, providing equal transportation options in a safe manner. Research-driven data addressed safety issues and included records of accidents, income and age. The Federation is a member of both the CSC and SATC and is represented by President Nancy Curry.
Paul Arrigo, Chief Executive Officer of Visit BR, explained the work and events which are promoted to increase business through local tourism. Mr. Arrigo explained the proposition on the upcoming November 8th ballot to increase the hotel tax paid by visitors. The tax would only be paid by those who stay in local hotels and amount to an additional $1.50/night. This increase in tax is supported by both the Baton Rouge Lodging and the LA. Restaurant Associations. A portion of the tax will go to Visit BR to support its promotional efforts and a portion will be used to upgrade Cane’s River Center.
Elliott Atkinson, a local attorney and one of the founders of the Federation, addressed deed restrictions. There is a 2 year prescriptive period which applies when a person breaks a neighborhood’s deed restriction. If the HOA/CA doesn’t act within that time period, it cannot be enforced on that person. Federation President, Nancy Curry, asked Mr. Atkinson to draft a Waiver of Prescription. This document would acknowledge that a HOA/CA allows a homeowner to acknowledge that their deed restrictions is not running on him as long as the city’s waiver is in effect. Mr. Atkinson gave a “Free Legal Advice” seminar, answering many questions from the floor.
Tara Wicker, Metro Councilwoman-District 10, provided details on the Community Ambassador Program, whose goals are to increase dialogue between residents and the police and in doing so, to bring about healing in the city in the aftermath of the Alton Sterling shooting. LSU, Southern University and BR Community College collaborated with Councilwoman Wicker on the best way to gather and use the data needed. She in interested in gathering public input. The plan will then be presented to the Metro Council for approval.
Dwight Hudson, Metro Councilman, District 9, addressed the purpose of the proposed changes to Chapter 15 of the Unified Development Code (UDC). He stated that the idea is not to hamper real estate development, but to create a responsible, resilient landscape. He also explained that HNTB, the firm contracted by the City to conduct a Master Storm Water Management Plan, will offer recommendations to revise the UDC based on data from the August, 2016 flood. Their report should be ready in about 2 years and will assist the City in managing the federal funds for better flood control.
Christopher Kersey , the manager of the Highland Road Park Observatory shared suggestions on how to have light in your yard without its negative effects. While we all want to use our lights for protection at night, we ought to also be aware of the possibility that we may be shining them into the bedroom of our next door neighbor.
Sarah Holliday-James, a certified parliamentarian, was our speaker. Since we have added a “Crime Prevention District” Committee to our organization, Sarah went over the parliamentary formalities that we all need to follow. This is particularly important in these districts in particular. The keeping of accurate minutes is very important as these are created under State Statutes and must follow state law.
Elliott Atkinson addressed concerns about some HOAs not understanding the complexity of trying to join with other HOAs to form one huge organization. There are varying dues, liabilities, insurance, deed restrictions, architectural restrictions, ownership interests, etc.
Ashley Michel of the EBR Library staff addressed how to go about setting up an Excel spreadsheet. This is helpful in keeping good accounting records as well as membership records.
Meeting cancelled due to weather. The Great Flood of 2016.
Lauren Marschall from the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) had a presentation on Better Block Perkins Overpass. She showed the possiblities that can be done to make that area a more attractive and safe place for people to move through using the modes of transportation that are currently being used, i.e., walking, biking, personal vehicles, and public transit.
Eric Romero, Information Services (IS) Director, and Warren Kron, Georgraphic Information Services(GIS) Manage explained how to use the new technology the city is providing. The city has added property tax records which it will now receive regularly from the City Tax Assessor. Additionally, the city has a 311 app you can use to report problems immediately by cell phone.
Mr. Larry Latuso, a CPA with Score, explained the impact of the new Legislation on imposing sales tax on HOA’s. …“one of the specifically enumerated services subject to sales tax is the furnishing, for dues, fees, or other consideration, of the privilege of access to clubs or the privilege of having access to or the use of amusement, entertainment, athletic, or recreational facilities”… things that make a profit for an HOA.
Mr. Randy Zaeth and Mr. Mike Morganti with the East Baton Rouge Mosquito and Rodent Control explained the dangers of West Nile and Zika. These have been in the news a great deal lately and the parish tests for the presence of these viruses. They also explained what all of us can and should be doing to lessen the mosquito’s ability to reproduce and spread them.
All the candidates running for mayor-president of East Baton Rouge parish were invited to participate. After a brief introduction by the 10 candidates, a series of 4 questions were asked and the candidates had 1 minute to respond. The order of answer was determined by a draw. Questions concerned dedicated taxes, lack of enforcement of city ordinances, correcting drainage problems before allowing construction in a problem area and more real public input in ordinance revisions. The candidates then met with the audience members.
A forum for the candidates for Metro Council seats was held. All the candidates running for Metro Council District seats of East Baton Rouge parish were invited to participate. Of the 42 candidates running for a seat, 31 participated. Each candidate had one minute to introduce themselves and their goals for EBR Parish. President Nancy Curry asked each candidate to respond to a two part question regarding the recent parish wide flooding: 1. Even if we ignore this seemingly rare recent flooding, please explain your thoughts on solving our drainage problems which we very obviously have had for quite some time. And I am referring to the Comite Diversion canal. 2. Would you be inclined to vote for or against a development that will increase water runoff in an area that already floods from a plain old typical Louisiana rain? The candidates then met with participants and answered individual questions.
The speakers were:
Chris Keaton, Deputy Budget Analyst, LA House Fiscal Division - Mr. Keaton gave a presentation on the fiscal status of the State. We receive 12 billion dollars from the Federal government, 4.3 billion from Sales taxes, 3.1 billion from Income taxes and 3.1 billion for statutory designations
Congressman Garret Graves, 6th District - spoke about the transportation problems in Baton Rouge. He said we have the 3rd worse traffic problems in the nation. One of the solutions is to close the Washington Ave. exit to establish new traffic patterns. A new Task Force established by Governor Edwards, will study budget and traffic problems. One possible solution is an increase in gasoline taxes.
Ron Henderson of the Department of Insurance Consumer Advocacy Division - said the Insurance Department has limited jurisdiction on flood insurance. Only 13% of the population has flood insurance which can be purchased separately for structure and contents.
Carolyn McKnight, Superintendent of BREC - discussed the BREC Trails which are part of the Capital Area Pathway Project, CAPP, which is an initiative to identify routes and build a network of trails and greenways throughout East Baton Rouge and surrounding Parishes
Christopher Kerney, manager of the Observatory at Highland Road Park which is part of BREC - informed the audience about the Observatory and how they will do an Astronomy Outreach for HOA’s to demonstrate and keep light pollution minimized. More information will be forthcoming.
Walter Monsour and his team explained the Green Light Plan II that is on the December ballot. The Federation takes no position on any tax, but in the interest of giving members some information on what it does and does not do, we allowed them to have some time to explain it. The Federation always wants our members to have enough information to make informed choices. A schedule of meetings across the parish which the public can attend for specific information was given members through our website and the city’s website.
Speakers included Frank Duke, Planning Director for EBR Parish, who spoke on his proposed revision to Section 8.201 of the UDC. He also explained the upcoming restructuring of the UDC. Jennifer Mayer, from CASA explained what they do and their need for volunteers. Josh Crowe Program Manager for SSO (Sanitary Sewer Overflow) explained their work upgrading the sewer system and how to be contacted when work will begin in various areas of the parish.
Justin Dupuy, Code Enforcement manager with DPW explained how the city-parish’s Blight Court operates. He reviewed the various types of violations neighborhoods can report using the city’s 311 Call Center number. Carey Chauvin, Chief Building Official, explained how voters approved the splitting of DPW into six separate departments.
Eric Romero, Information Service Director, introduced the city”s “Open Data” website data.brla.gov. Mary Stein, EBR Assistant Library Director, and Andrew Tadman, Library Coordinator of Reference & computer Services introduced their new website: citykey.com
Scott Shean presented “A Review of Options for Gating Lake Sherwood Acres.” Clifford Grout, First Vice President on the Federation’s board explained how to do research on the Legislature’s website for bills and statues. This is important particularly if you plan to create or have created a Crime Prevention District as you have state laws you must then follow.
Spencer Watts, the East Baton Rouge Public Library Director explained what the library system hopes to do if the Library Tax is renewed.
Reception at the Main Library celebrating the Federation’s new logo. The logo was designed to give the Federation a distinct recognizable image the public can quickly associate with us.
The Federation hosted a Forum for the candidates seeking election to the Louisiana State House and Senate. Present at this first event were Metro Councilman Ryan Heck seeking a seat in House District 69, Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins Lewis seeking a seat in House District 61, and Antoine Pierce seeking a seat in House District 66. Also speaking was Justin Dupuy, with Code Enforcement. He explained the current definition of a “family” He also addressed to what extend someone can and cannot conduct a business in a residential area, and Parking. You may have as many vehicles as you can fit in your garage, carport, and driveway (driveway can only be the width of the garage/carport opening) up to the sidewalk/street. Parked vehicles cannot block the sidewalk. Parking on the grass in the front of a house other than in the above described driveway is not permitted no matter what surface you put down.
-Learning parliamentary procedure
-Rollout of the Federation's new website - www.fgbrca.org or fgbrca.webs.com
-No meeting this month