Public street turned into private drive, parish references state law
BATON ROUGE - Residents in one neighborhood were surprised when a wall went up, cutting off a through street. They say no one told them this was happening and they aren't sure why it was allowed, but 2 On Your Side has learned that there might not be anything that can be done.
The stone wall cuts off access to Slate Street from N. 30th Street. Where there once was a roadway is now landscaped with grass, plants, and a sculpture. Resident Roslynn Collins-Pitre grew up in a house that's a stone's throw from the wall and can't believe her eyes.
"What in the world is going on?" said Collins-Pitre. "We were never notified."
A group of neighbors met 2 On Your Side's Brittany Weiss on N. 30th Street Tuesday morning. Some say they initially thought the parish was doing work at the intersection while others say they thought the street that often flooded was being repaired.
"And then all of the sudden we have this wall," said Collins-Pitre.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council approved the revocation of the Slate Street right-of-way at a public hearing on September 20, 2017. The revocation was recommended by the Planning and Zoning Commission at a public hearing on August 21, 2017. Property owner W. T. Winfield made the initial request.
The City-Parish referenced a state law that Winfield followed. He owns a handful of properties in the area along Slate Street between N. 29th and N. 30th Streets.
The parish says Winfield's request was objected by no one, so the council revoked the right-of-way. Once a right-of-way is revoked, the underlying property becomes the property of the abutting property owners, and Winfield is the owner of the abutting property. That means most of Slate Street between N. 29th Street and N. 30th Street is Winfield's property, which he's made a "private drive" with marked signs saying such.
Tuesday afternoon, 2 On Your Side learned that some of that "private drive" belongs to Willie Atkins, who owns 2905 Slate Street. The information was also new to Atkins, whose mailbox and driveway is along the section of Slate Street that's been revoked by the City-Parish.
Atkins says he's been living in his Slate Street property for 13 years. He does not agree with what happened around him.
"Technically now it's my driveway, but it's a street," said Atkins.
Tuesday, 2 On Your Side spoke with Winfield as he returned to his home. He wouldn't comment much on the wall or the closed road but did refer our comments to the City-Parish Planning and Zoning Commission.
Collins-Pitre says while their voices may not have been heard a few months ago, they're letting their feelings be known now.
"He's done some good things for our community but this wall is not in our best interest," she said. "Our goal is to get this wall taken down."
The parish alludes that goal is lofty since it would likely have to buy the property back from Winfield if the street were ever to reopen again. The Planning Commission says revocations are not new and from 2016-2018 there were 36 of them granted in EBR Parish.
Collins-Pitre is spearheading a neighborhood petition which she plans to present to Mayor-President Sharon Weston-Broome Thursday afternoon at a meeting about the revocation.