Walter Pierce

Elmhurst fracas goes to council vote

by Walter Pierce

The Lafayette City-Parish Council has a light agenda for Tuesday evening’s meeting — one presentation, five discussion items and a single ordinance up for final adoption. But that last item — Olde Tyme Grocery owner Glen Murphree’s request that the council override the Zoning Commission and grant his rezoning request for property behind his business — promises to add some sizzle to a hot summer night.

Murphree is asking the council to rezone a lot he owns on Brook Street adjacent to his superette from single family residential to transitional business so he can turn it into a parking lot, ostensibly for Olde Tyme employees, but presumably — according to residents in the leafy subdivision — to charge UL Lafayette students. The merchant has the backing of UL, which is a co-petitioner in the request. But the Zoning Commission denied Murphree’s request at a January 26 hearing, and the neighborhood as a whole, based on the frequency of “NO RE-ZONE” signs in front yards, is against the request.

Many neighbors see the issue as one of commercial encroachment into a traditional residential neighborhood, which they fear could not only affect their quality of life, but have a negative impact on property values as well. In an e-mail to The Independent Weekly, Gordon Brooks, dean of UL Lafayette’s College of Arts and an Elmhurst resident, writes, “... this is a community planning issue having to do with smart growth and following good planning principles. River Ranch and [traditional neighborhood developments] like it are successful because of rigorous adherence to good principles and to the codes set in place.  In no way would it ever allow an intrusion of commercial like this. Too much is at risk... Set the code and pay strict attention to it. People will see you do that and that gives them confidence to invest. Property values rise and so does the tax base. Simple enough ...”