Neighbors rejoice after Southdowns man withdraws rezoning request
Baton Rouge, LA (FOX44) — Dozens of Southdowns residents showed up at Tuesday's meeting of the Metro Council Zoning Committee ready to fight a proposed zoning change. Instead, they celebrated victory without having to say a word.
A lawyer for Ben Skillman sent a letter to the council Tuesday, which was received right as the meeting started. It stated that Skillman withdrew his request to have his land rezoned from single family residential to mixed use.
"We want to keep the south side of Perkins Road in this area strictly residential and there's great reasons for keeping it that way," Warner Delaune said when the council meeting adjourned. "So we're happy about the result tonight."
Skillman had an agreement to sell his home, at the corner of Perkins Road and Stuart Road, to a psychiatrist who would convert it into a clinic that treats drug addiction. Neighbors said the clinic would not be a good fit for the area, which includes a church and a school.
"There are plenty of viable places in Baton Rouge to have a practice like that," Delaune said, noting the clinic's current location on Bluebonnet Blvd. "We have total sympathy for the folks who need those kind of services. And there's no doubt people in Southdowns who may need those kinds of services."
But more than the purpose, neighbors said they opposed any commercial activity in that part of the neighborhood.
"We don't want to open up a whole big old area," said Melissa Fike, who lives across the street from Skillman. "Then, how are we going to say no to anything else? How are we going to get the zoning commission to say, 'well, okay, that's enough.'"
The north side of Perkins Road is primarily commercial, and there are a handful of businesses on the south side. But west of Stuart is residential, and opponents said the city-parish meant it to stay that way.
"The city just spent an enormous amount of money and lot of time, effort, and energy by a lot of good people do to this FuturEBR plan," said Councilman Smokie Bourgeois, whose district encompasses Southdowns. "And then the first thing they want to do, the ink's not dry on it yet, and they want to make an amendment to it."
If Skillman wants to try to rezone his land again, he would have to start the process from the beginning by taking a proposal to the planning commission.
But Bourgeois said the council was not likely to vote in Skillman's favor Tuesday night.