SORRENTO – The Town of Sorrento’s zoning ordinances are not up to date and have not been changed since their inception in 1996, something that needs to be done every year, according to Mayor Mike Lambert.
Lambert said during the Town Council meeting last week he has been considering hiring a Planning and Zoning Consultant for the past two and a half years and told the council Tuesday he would like to hire former Ascension Parish Planning and Zoning Director Ricky Compton. The town of nearly 1,600 was hit hard by flooding in August and is still recovering.
The mayor said there is $20,000 allocated in the budget for the position and Compton would be paid $100 an hour capped at $1,000 per month to work with the council and planning and zoning commission to get them “up to speed” and answer questions and make determinations. He asked for a motion to “iron out” an agreement “with legal” when Councilman Randy Anny asked to table the item emphatically stating “I am zoning administrator.”
Anny said he was appointed the head of zoning but Lambert claimed it was not by ordinance. The councilman said he did not want to vote “blind” on the issue without any of the council seeing the proposal “because you think I am dumb enough to do it,” and said if there was a problem with how he was handling the position of zoning administrator, Lambert should have addressed him.
His motion did not get a second but Councilman Marvin Martin’s to hire Compton on grounds that the council review the contract did. The motion was seconded by Councilwoman Patti Poche pending a check of the ordinance by Town Attorney Matt Percy after Councilman Donald Schexnaydre asked if it was “cut and dry.” Martin’s motion to review was later added to include that is not already in the ordinance.
Compton was not present at the meeting due to an illness in the family, according to Lambert. In related planning and zoning matters, the council lifted a zoning moratorium and tabled a public hearing for the adoption of zoning ordinances.
It was the first meeting of the council since election qualifying that saw every council member and the mayor re-elected without opposition except Martin, who did not qualify. Republican Randi Sutton was the only other candidate to qualify for the five at-large seats with terms set to begin July 1.
In the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting resident Tim Hebert claimed Martin, first elected in 2009, owed money to the ethics board and that is why he didn’t qualify. He asked that copies of the records be presented as documents of the meeting and said Martin shouldn’t have qualified for the 2013 election because he owed money then as well.
Hebert also had documents showing all of Martin’s paychecks in the past four years totaling $8,400 that he said should have gone to the next highest vote getter in that election, former Ascension Parish Councilman Milton “Needlenose” Vicknair, who was in attendance. He also believes everything the council has done since that election should be void.
According to the ethics board records, Martin was fined $1,500 in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014 for filing late. He was 303 days late in 2009 and 2010, 76 days late in 2013 and has not filed for 2014. Hebert added after the meeting that everything should “cease and desist” because Martin has served as mayor pro-tem.
On candidates qualifying forms, they must acknowledge that they do not owe any outstanding fines, fees or penalties according to the Code of Governmental Ethics. Hebert also said that a bill of $350 was voided on an legal opinion in 2013 about voter requirements by the town attorney who wouldn’t be appointed to that position until July 3.
In other matters, the council is still attempting to collect on late utility accounts. A list of unpaid utilities was separated into two groups, one where people are unlikely to be able to be contacted and another where they are likely. Lambert asked that the council go through the list and finalize it for the next meeting.
Town Accountant Jacob Waguespack said there was as much as $19,000 owed but it is now at about $5,300 after a collective write-off of about $15,000 already. Waguespack also said that “not necessarily” does it have to be on the books by the end of the year because there are allowances for some of that.
A discussion also began about animal control and how to handle complaints after Wilson Longanecker Sr., who did not attend the meeting, said there was a cat problem on Mathlida St. Anny asked the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office to go to his residence to file a complaint.