Compromise is theme for Rayne Zoning meet
If there was a theme to Monday’s meeting of the Rayne Zoning and Planning Commission, it was “compromise.”
A compromise was offered concerning a request to rezone property along North Polk Street and another compromise appeared to be struck between the commission and the architect for the expansion of Rayne Guest Home regarding flood elevation.
Regarding the North Polk property, Edwin Bercier III requested that the city re-zone the property at 300 N. Polk — the former Bercier dental offices — from R-1 (residential) to C-2 (commercial), the same as abutting properties to the south and west of the site.
Mark Daigle, city inspector, explained that Ricky Cuccio wishes to purchase the property to be used primarily for storage, but, in the future, as a site for packaging boudin for sale in his stores.
While the C-2 zoning would allow for such use, it would also allow for a wide variety of other uses, including drive-through retailers, bars and lounges.
“Once it’s rezoned, there is no limit as to what type of business can locate there as long as it falls within those parameters,” explained Larry Richard, city attorney.
Kevin Roy, who lives at 303 N. Parkerson, right behind the Polk Street property, said he would not like to see the property rezoned for fear of what type of business might eventually locate there.
The possibility of requesting a variance which would specifically note the business operation was discussed, but it was pointed out that variances can only be requested by the owner and are not transferable upon sale.
After some discussion, Tim Mader, city engineer, suggested that Bercier and Cuccio could consider entering into a purchase agreement contingent upon Cuccio being granted a variance. Should the city decline the variance, the sale could be reversed.
Cuccio agreed to pursue that idea and Roy said he would not object to that.
Keith Broussard, architect for the 46,000 square-foot expansion to Rayne Guest Home, requested a variance to the city’s Code of Ordinances requiring non-residential construction in “Zone X” be built 1 foot above the crown of the street.
Broussard pointed out that the floor of the existing portion of the Guest Home is about 2 inches above the crown that raising the expansion an additional 10 inches “would be problematic” for the residents.
He said corridor connections between the existing building and the addition would require ramped floor, particularly hazardous to nursing home residents due to low ambulatory ability.
“Our best scenario would be 1 on 30 (1 inch rise for every 30 inches length),” he said. “That doesn’t seem like it would be problematic unless you’re in a wheelchair.”
Broussard added that, because property for construction is limited, a higher elevation would also mean steeper grades outside of the exits to reach parking / drop-off areas and sidewalks.
“Steeper grades outside of exits can create safety issues, such as the potential for falls, especially in the event of an emergency evacuation,” Broussard said.
But Daigle, who also serves as Rayne’s Flood Plain Administrator, said he was reluctant to recommend the waiver, especially in light of the recent historic flooding event in mid-August.
“The water was probably within inches of getting into the nursing home,” Daigle said. “My concern is for safety, for the residents as well as for the people who might be called upon to rescue them in the event of another such flood.”
He initially said his recommendation was to follow the letter of the ordinance.
However, another round of discussion ensued and Daigle relented, somewhat, saying he “could sleep at night” with a compromise elevation of 8 inches above the current floor elevation — or 10 inches above the crown of the road.
The city council will consider each of these recommendations when it meets in regular session Monday, Oct. 10.