A proposal for a new subdivision on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish is sparking concerns among residents in the nearby Woodmere neighborhood who worry the development will lower property values and lead to increased crime and traffic.
But the architect behind the Solarium Park subdivision, Alfred Hayes, said neighbors are "assuming the worst" about the project. He and developer Yi "George" Xia are hoping to win neighbors over with their pitch for a "modern residential community."
Solarium Park would take up 7.8-acres on the corner of Woodmere Boulevard and Post Drive and include 45 single-family homes, according to parish records. As part of the project, another 1.2 acres behind the subdivision would be sold to Jefferson Parish to allow for the extension of Cousins Boulevard to Lapalco Boulevard.
The Planning Advisory Board deferred a vote on the proposal last month to its meeting Jan. 11. The Jefferson Parish Council, which has final say over planning decisions, won't hold its own hearing until at least February.
Solarium Park would be organized around a single, horseshoe-shaped street off Post Drive. The homes would feature open floor plans and range from 1,500 to 2,500 square feet and cost between $225,000 and $375,000, Hayes said.
Some Woodmere residents say they're skeptical developers will build anything other than sub-par housing. With the project located at the entrance to their subdivision, they worry the development would lower their own property values.
Hayes said that, if anything, Solarium Park may be "too good."
"One of the key features of the project is that we want an energy efficient neighborhood," Hayes said. "It’s going to be a sustainable neighborhood for the future."
The homes will include charging stations for electric vehicles and buyers will have the option to purchase solar power packages, he said.
With several thousands homes, Woodmere, which first opened in 1975, is among the largest subdivisions in Louisiana.
Leslie Trufant, who has lived in the neighborhood for 29 years, said there's already enough housing. She'd like to see more attention given to the blighted and empty homes at the back of the subdivision before new housing is built.
"We don't need another subdivision inside a subdivision," she said.
Several residents said they'd like to see the empty lot developed into a neighborhood grocery store. June Hollis, who moved to Woodmere 29 years ago, said the neighborhood's aging residents could use a pharmacy. The lot is zoned for general office use, which allows for a range of commercial and residential uses.
Trufant suggested the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office look into purchasing the property to build a new substation. Xia purchased the 9.2-acre lot in 2022 for $698,000, according to parish records.
Eric Wilson, who lives across from the land, said drivers frequently disregard the stop sign on Woodmere Boulevard and Post Drive. Trufant said there are accidents there nearly every other day. They both worry that the proposed subdivision will worsen traffic.
"They run that like water," Wilson said of the stop sign. He said there have also been issues with people riding four-wheelers down the street.
The developers submitted a traffic impact analysis to the parish that determined that the new subdivision would "generate approximately 68 total trips during the AM and PM peak hours" and would "result in no significant impact to the surrounding roadway network."
Hayes said the extension of Cousins Boulevard to Lapalco Boulevard should also cut down traffic on Woodmere "substantially."
The application before the Planning Advisory Board and the Parish Council is for what's called a "preliminary plat." If it's approved, the developers would have up to two years to install necessary sewer and water infrastructure. After that, officials would inspect the infrastructure to determine if it meets parish standards. The Parish Council would then have to approve the final plat through a resolution, allowing the lots to be developed or sold.
Parish Council member Byron Lee, whose district includes the area, said he hasn't yet formed an opinion on the project. Parish Council members typically defer to the district council member on planning decisions.
The Planning Advisory Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 11 at 5 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Jefferson Parish General Government Building, 200 Derbigny Street in Gretna.