Concerned citizens fear police jury UDC takes away rights

For many months the Calcasieu Police Jury staff has been working to prepare a draft Unified Development Code they say will regulate development outside the cities of Calcasieu-- and consolidate many previously adopted ordinance dealing with zoning, subdivisions and more.

So far, they've held six meetings of a "public review panel" to provide opportunities for public input.

Some citizens are now becoming vocal about their concerns.  Sister Diane Depwe of Moss Bluff says she's read every page of the document and finds many issues of concern.  Depwe feels it will drastically interfere with citizens' rights and their ability to do what they wish with their property.

Parish officials say it's going to make it easier for everyone to maneuver through parish ordinances and find what they need to know. But some citizens say it's taking away too many rights and telling people what they can and cannot do with their own property.

In the unincorporated area,  there are different people with different interests-- agriculture, business, homeowners and developers. And in part various parish ordinances help everyone co-exist-- and provide orderly growth. Parish officials say the UDC will make it easier for everyone to find what they need. Assistant planning director Jennifer Wallace likens it to cleaning out a closet. " Every now and then you have to go in and you gotta clean out the closet and to do that you have to take everything out and look at every item specifically and decide how you're going to deal with it, put it back in the closet, you put it back in an orderly fashion, logical. Makes it easy for you to get dressed in the morning. And that's what we've done here. We've cleaned out the closet in our development regulations."

Yet Sister Diane Depwe of Moss Bluff sees it much differently. "The people don't know about this. They don't realize they're losing every right to their personal property. And that this needs to be a vote by the parish people."

Sister Depwe is a nun who is also a licensed professional counselor. She believes the UDC seeks to tell people what to do with their own property."It will affect every real estate developer, every contractor, subcontractor, everybody even personal residents of what yo can build, how you can build."

One way to see how the Unified Development Code might affect you is to read it. You can see it online or you can visit the Calcasieu Government Building on Pithon Street in Lake Charles. Wallace says rather than increase government regulation the code actually streamlines it and allows people to avoid red tape.

On August 29, the UDC review panel will hold it's last meeting at the Prien Lake Park Pavilion.

Before the code becomes the law of the land it will have to be approved by the Calcasieu Parish Planning and Zoning Board and then the Police Jury.

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