Lumpkin Plaza gets approval to expand parking lot

Council approves Lumpkin Plaza parking expansion

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Lumpkin Plaza owner Brent Lumpkin and business associates Southland Capital need approval to expand employee parking to the property on the corner of Nelson Road and Woodland Drive. It's a venture that's been met with overwhelming opposition from neighbors.

"His initial deal was to go from business to residential and I was totally against that," said Lee Mallett, local contractor.

Mallett owns property on Woodland Drive and in the 11th hour negotiated a compromise with Southland Capital.

"Southland Capital has agreed to install an eight foot brick fence. We've agreed to use directional lighting so the lighting is not going to affect the neighborhood. And there will not be any ingress or egress on to Woodland Drive," said Lee Boyer, Southland Capital.

But Woodland residents don't want the compromise.

"We don't want a parking lot. Compromise what? Mr. Mallett's efforts were not what we wanted. We just want to go forward with the law and divulge things that needed to be done," said Melody Gillett, mother lives on Woodland Drive.

The request was recommended by the Lake Charles Planning and Zoning Commission, but not without controversy.

"I know that this was referred to you, but I would like all of you to take into consideration that vote at the zoning commission has been tainted by the ethical violation and the subsequent resignation - I'm not even going to say the name, but the head of the commission," said Ed Gillett, mother-in-law lives on Woodland Drive.

With their last chance to be heard residents sounded off about why they don't want the parking lot.

"You want to know why we got emotional because we have something to be emotional about. What is a parking lot? - A place to park a car. What is a home? - A place to park your heart," said one Woodland Drive resident.

"I don't know how you are predisposed to vote. The anger of the neighbors is justified. And it comes from fear. Anger comes from fear of what is going to happen to our neighborhood and our homes through no fault of our own," said Harriet Green, lives near Woodland Driver.

Residents believe the fault lies with Lumpkin Plaza and Southland Capital for poor planning of too many businesses and not enough parking.

"I counted there are only 75 parking spots with three handicapped spots. Where did they think the employees were going to park? They need to accept responsibility for their lack of vision," said Roger Young, Woodland Drive resident.

Residents also fear it's only the beginning of a dominoe effect.

"What we are hearing from owners of the next property and the next property is that they have been offered money for their properties. So they are not going to stop just at the first house," said another Woodland Drive resident.

After more than an hour and half of discussion the council approved the parking lot - rezoning the property from residential to mixed use. Mixed use means no business can be placed on the property. In order for that to happen the owner would have to go back before the zoning commission.

As part of the approval they have to put up an 8 foot brick fence, directional lighting and will never be allowed to egress or ingress on to Woodland Drive. Meanwhile, residents say it's not over they plan to appeal the decision with legal action.

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