With limited area to grow before encountering swamps, unsuitable soils, and floodplains, many communities in south Louisiana use infill development in targeted areas to manage growth and ensure long-term resilience. While some growth beyond the city limits is inevitable, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana developed a Long-Range Comprehensive Resilience Plan that directs development to areas already within city limits. To make infill more appealing than greenfield development, the plan proposes ordinances and incentives to direct new construction toward downtown and established neighborhoods.
Breaux Bridge is a small city east of Lafayette with a strong Cajun identity. The city is home to multiple festivals, popular restaurants, a historic downtown, and natural areas that attract visitors from across the region. However, natural hazards and uncontrolled development can undermine the appeal of Breaux Bridge for tourists and residents alike. Breaux Bridge has seen most of its new development spring up along the major I-10 corridor instead of in the downtown. Sprawling development is taxing on the environment and puts pressure on the city to annex more land, straining the city’s budget through the extension of infrastructure and public services. In addition, a growing population and a 25% poverty rate introduce additional concerns about the local economy and adequate affordable housing.
Currently, Breaux Bridge has limited tools to address community planning issues. A proposed revision to the city’s zoning ordinance was drafted in 2008 but has not yet been adopted. The Breaux Bridge Comprehensive Long-Range Resiliency Plan offers strategies to improve the 2008 code that will help the city prepare for natural threats, protect historic districts, and avoid unsustainable development patterns. The plan outlines modifications to the zoning code to create a downtown district by re-establishing its traditional urban character and allowing for mixed-used development. Citywide land use proposals, including the adoption of a Unified Development Code (UDC), create clear guidelines for residential and commercial development, promoting a specific character. Financial incentives in areas targeted for redevelopment, including tax abatements and reduced permitting fees, make infill economically appealing for private developers. The plan undertaken by the consultants and the city also outlines strategies for improving transportation planning, public services and infrastructure, economic development, the availability of affordable housing, and methods for strategic annexation to expand the city. With takeaways for departments ranging from police and fire to the housing authority and public works, the plan aims to assist the city with holistic improvements that will keep Breaux Bridge regionally competitive and resilient.
Resilience Planning in Action
The Breaux Bridge Comprehensive Long-Range Resiliency Plan aims to grow the city in economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable ways, while ensuring the city can rebound quickly and efficiently following natural disasters. The plan takes a close look at current conditions, ordinances, and annexation procedures, then outlines structural and non-structural strategies the city should follow to address major threats in a coordinated manner.
Flooding from storm events is an ongoing threat that can be partially addressed with well-maintained drainage, stormwater management, and natural land preservation. Soils that are unsuitable for construction, including wetlands, can be valuable to communities for flood mitigation purposes. Breaux Bridge is recognizing the multiple benefits of improved growth management through preservation of undeveloped lands. By limiting sprawl and directing new development to appropriate locations, the city is able to preserve such wetlands and fragile soils, as well as protect the construction that could occur in those places.
- Regularly maintain and clean drainage ditches.
- Coordinate stormwater management practices across regions.
- Designate “preferred growth areas” to avoid new development pushing into flood-prone areas.
- Incentivize infill development.
Antiquated infrastructure is more vulnerable to natural hazards and can prolong recovery following storm events. To increase the city’s resilience to storm damage, Breaux Bridge is seeking funding to improve its infrastructure. The plan calls for ongoing infrastructure improvements that further support future growth in line with the city’s existing character. It proposes a restructuring of annexation procedures to reduce undesirable land uses by directing development to preferred areas and ascribing infrastructure extension costs to the developer instead of the city.
- Update zoning to direct development to areas best suited for buildings.
- Restrict extension of city services or infrastructure outside of city limits without agreement for annexation and payment for improvements by the developer.
- Require all utilities, including new power, phone, and cable lines, to be buried.
- Form a TIF district downtown to encourage infill development.
- Improve municipal buildings with investments in wind-hardening, flood-proofing, and back-up generators.
- Clean out all drainage ditches.
- Improve water/wastewater systems.
- Coordinate stormwater management regionally, particularly with St. Martin Parish and Lafayette Consolidated Government.
Sprawling development in and around Breaux Bridge is leading to the neglect of older neighborhoods, traffic congestion, and added expenses for the municipal government. Faced with a 25% poverty rate, a waiting list for its limited HUD units, and a 21% increase in population by 2030, the city needs new, affordable, and safe housing developments. The Resiliency Plan links strategies for encouraging infill development to efforts that increase affordable housing availability. As multiple strategies are paired with increased code enforcement and local programs to target abandoned properties, Breaux Bridge will improve the appeal of its older neighborhoods and increase access to safe, affordable housing.
- Invest in emergency services by hiring more staff when needed, increasing benefits, and improving facilities and equipment, which will improve officer retention and community protection.
- Allow and incentivize second-story residential units in the proposed downtown district.
- Modify the current residential zoning to create districts that allow for a mix of housing types and variable lot sizes.
- Use federal grant programs that promote homeownership and provide funds for weatherization improvements for middle- and low-income families in older neighborhoods, including the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and American Dream Down Payment Act grants.
- In multi-family and mixed-use districts, grant density bonuses to developers for the inclusion of Accessory Dwelling Units, which are attached or detached apartments on single-family lots that provide additional income for homeowners and a source of affordable rental properties.
- Change the zoning code to make it easier for medical services to locate in Breaux Bridge.
Funds should be pursued for elevating repetitive loss structures and constructing or retrofitting municipal buildings to be flood-proof and wind-hardened. Non-structural efforts, such as increased investment in emergency services personnel and equipment, will further improve the resilience of Breaux Bridge and quality of life for residents.
- Investigate alternative sources of funding for retrofitting efforts.
- Build community support for change by undertaking a planning process that involves engagement of public officials, city staff, and citizens.
- Recognize and build strong working relationships with necessary partners in accomplishing long-term goals.
- Set up a five-year update cycle to thoroughly review changing conditions, evaluate and appraise the plan and subsequent amendments, and make recommendations for modifications.
- Establish an Implementation Task Force to initiate and coordinate plan implementation.