UPDATE: There was a victory Thursday night for residents of Caddo Parish who live just outside the city of Shreveport. The state Senate unanimously passed a bill giving those residents a break from having to live under city zoning codes. Under the current law, anyone within five miles of Shreveport's border was subject to city zoning codes, enforced by the Metropolitan Planning Commission. A citizens group called the Caddo Alliance For Freedom rebelled, saying say they were getting hassled for things like vehicles parked in yards, improper storage, and farm animals. The city of Shreveport opposed the bill.
SHREVEPORT, La. - As a bill that residents outside Shreveport city limits hail as a victory for property rights heads for final legislative passage, its author answers some of its critics
First term Republican Danny McCormick of Oil City went to the Louisiana House with a mandate from the people. And it appears he's delivered on a bill to boot Caddo Parish out of Shreveport's Metropolitan Planning Commission.
The movement began when the MPC began enforcing the Unified Development Code on residents living within five miles of Shreveport city limits. That meant folks who chose not to live in the city were getting hassled over city laws for things like vehicles parked in yards, improper storage, and farm animals. Notices of violation began being sent out to some property owners in late 2019
Then a citizens group called the Caddo Alliance for Freedom formed and rebelled. And they got the newly elected McCormick to push the bill through the legislature.
That's problem number one for the Shreveport City Council. Members unanimously signed a letter urging state lawmakers to reject the bill.
"That is an issue that is best addressed at the local level between the Caddo Parish Commission and the City Council and not something that we would prefer to have the state legislature removed from our authority," said Councilman John Nickelson.
"You've got senators and representatives from all over the state actually doing the job that should be done between the city of Shreveport and the parish of Caddo," adds Alan Clarke, Shreveport MPC Director.
But McCormick says his bill restores local control.
"Maybe they don't completely understand it," he said of the detractors. "This legislation was set up years ago. In 1954 (the state) ran legislation that created this boundary five miles outside the city of Shreveport that could be managed by the MPC. Now they're undoing that legislation and moving it back to its original form."
McCormick says Caddo Parish will now be in charge of planning and enforcing zoning laws outside city limits, free of a state law. It also means the city of Shreveport won't be. And some in the city see that as a problem, because those living just inside the city could be negatively impacted by development just on the other side of city lines.
"We need a little bit of a buffer between the city and the parish, because I sure don't want the people that live right next to Southern Trace to come in and put chicken houses," said Councilman Grayson Boucher.
Boucher says he's not sure that buffer needs to be the current distance of five miles.
Said Clarke at the MPC, "If you get incompatible codes, that can mean development that occurs out in the parish that negatively impacts a lot of the properties -- subdivisions especially."
Clarke mentioned the hypothetical possibility of a landfill possibly going in right next to a city neighborhood.
Boucher also complained, "None of my colleagues nor myself have heard one word from the state representative that wrote this legislation. And it would've been nice for them to come to us."
McCormick responded, "There were probably 20 meetings between Caddo Commission meetings, MPC meetings, meetings out in the community, meetings put on by commissioners out in the community. If the city council thought this affected them, I don't know why they didn't come to these public meetings and express their concerns."
McCormick says planning for land beyond Shreveport city limits will now be in the right hands.
"The Caddo Commission will have that input. The Caddo Commission will total control over that five-mile area now, which is who the people out in that rural area elect."
Clarke wonders if the parish will now create its own planning office. And whether commissioners cut funding to the MPC.
The spokeswoman for Caddo Parish, Krystle Beauchamp, says, "The Commission and Parish Administration would have to look at all possible options if HB 697 is approved by the Legislature, and no decisions have been made at this time. Ultimately any decision that is made will be by the Commission, with any support that Administration can give. They haven't thought that far ahead yet."
McCormick's House Bill 697 is expected to easily pass the Senate just as it did in the House. Then it would be up to Governor John Bel Edwards whether it becomes law.