Home News-Free City councilman shares his concerns over road plan

City councilman shares his concerns over road plan

Work on the Wemple Road widening project. (Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune)

A Bossier City Councilman is worried that a road plan may have unintended consequences for local land owners.

Tim Larkin, at-large councilman, expressed his doubts during an August meeting over the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments’ (NLCOG) plan designed to help guide growth for future roadways.

The Thoroughfare Plan was described as a mechanism to identify and preserve right-of-way and promoting roadway design consistency and connectivity across political boundaries.

“It’s taking all these different plans and documents for highways and road projects, smashing them together and see which ones would need additional right of way and the property for that right of way,” NLCOG Executive Director Kent Rogers explained to the city council at a Aug. 14 agenda meeting.

Larkin was skeptical, saying the plan as it is proposed could limit what people can do with their land.

“So when a farmer sees a red line through his land, can he get a building permit or can’t he? Or are we going to have to buy the land?” Larkin asked.

Rogers answered that any limitations imposed on land use are those based upon the city’s street map, UDC, and masterplan.

Tim Larkin

“We’re just taking those and incorporating those into here,” Rogers said. “It would be the same rules and regulations of your UDC. Implementation is within rights of the UDC. It’s to give a guide and say, ‘We have this corridor coming through here and let’s see how we can work together and do this.’”

In talking to the Press-Tribune, Larkin said he is advocating for clarity now because it’s the perfect time to get input he wants to see in the law.

“Bad laws make good people into bad guys,” said Larkin. “There’s nothing more problematic than people reading it and interpreting it differently. My whole point was to look at it from the standpoint of a commissioner appointed to the MPC who doesn’t understand it. You have to be able to speak to people like that — the farmer land owner, MPC member, banker, title attorney — all those people need to get the same message.”

“If you don’t have that, it is total chaos.”

Larkin said he was disappointed that NLCOG isn’t planning to individually notify land owners who could be affected by the plan.

“One thing I have got to hear is that with electronic databases, it is just a chip shot to mail every land owner to let them know ‘We’re going to widen a road in front of your house,’ and notify that person that it is happening. So they’ll find out when they want to put in a building permit. That does not sound rational to me.”

He noted he was also dissatisfied with the lack of public input regarding the plan.

“It was just really disappointing to hear that when they conducted six public outreach meetings and the total number of people who had anything to say was six people. You could see that was not a success. When I place what happened there in light of how for 49 cents a piece, could have written a letter to invite them to give input,” he said. “That is so logical and reasonable and obvious that I’m disappointed we might somehow eliminate such an elementary step.”

Larkin said his background as a developer helped him be able read the entire document closely.

“I utilize and interpret and am often involved with things of that nature, so I have a lot of experience with ones that work well and ones that don’t work well. Based on that, I produced recommendations in association with Councilman David Montgomery and we’ll seek other thoughts and then forward that to NLCOG,” said Larkin.

The plan has been through the public comment period and is going through review by public bodies. NLCOG is taking input from the Bossier City-Parish Metropolitan Planning Commission, Bossier Parish Police Jury, and the city council. NLCOG will then come back to the city after responding to comments from these bodies.

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Sean Green is managing editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune.