Lafayette tax extension proposal for Louisiana Ave./I-10 interchange economic development moves forward; final vote later this month _lowres

 

The Lafayette City-Parish Council moved forward a proposal Monday to keep collecting an extra penny sales tax at the Louisiana Avenue/Interstate 10 interchange to pay for infrastructure to support a new commercial development there.

A final vote on the measure is set for April 28.

The council in 2006 approved a special taxing district at the interchange, where the sales tax rate is 10 percent, compared with 9 percent elsewhere in the city.

The extra tax revenue has been used to repay about $9 million in debt for road work, drainage improvements and other upgrades to lure the Target-anchored shopping center southwest of interchange.

Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, who represents the area, has proposed continuing that tax to support future developments, specifically a 42-acre site northeast of the interchange that’s being eyed for a large grocery store, a theater, several restaurants, a shopping center and at least one hotel.

He said some type of incentive seems necessary to spur development in the area.

“People run to build in other areas,” Boudreaux said. “Nobody is running to build there.”

Only general information was available Monday about the proposed development.

The property owners and developers were not in attendance at the meeting, and no information was offered on the specific stores being courted, the timeline for the project or details on the type of infrastructure being sought.

A broker for the property owners has confirmed only that a Super 1 Foods is part of the plan.

The measure submitted to the council would authorize borrowing up to $3 million for infrastructure improvements, including road work, street lights and the extension of utilities, then using tax revenue to repay the debt.

The council voted 6-2 with little discussion to move the measure forward, with councilmen William Theriot and Andy Naquin opposing it. Councilman Jared Bellard was absent.

The council faces a time constraint, because the one-cent tax will fall off the books when the original debt borrowed for the Target center infrastructure is paid off, which is expected to happen in the coming weeks.

City-Parish Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley said he expects more details about the project will be made public before the measure comes up for final vote later this month.

Monday’s meeting attracted a handful of opponents, including Carol Ross, who characterized the special taxing district as a tool for “crony deals that just benefit a few developers.”

She also told council members they should be wary that legitimate questions about the project went unanswered.

“There is no one even here to give you the information you need,” she said.

The measure came up at a special meeting on Monday — council meetings are normally on Tuesday — because it failed last week.

Boudreaux had proposed the tax extension, but none of his fellow councilmen offered a motion to bring the measure up for discussion, leaving it to die a procedural death.

At least two council members said after last week’s meeting that they didn’t realize the issue was up for a make-or-break vote and would support discussing it.

Follow Richard Burgess on Twitter, @rbb100.

Editor’s note: This article was changed on Tuesday, April 14, to note that the sales tax rate is 10 percent for the area near the interchange, compared with 9 percent elsewhere in the city.