An extra penny sales tax at the Louisiana Avenue/Interstate 10 interchange that was scheduled to go away this year will remain in place, the Lafayette City-Parish Council decided Tuesday.
The council voted 6-3 in favor of a deal to keep collecting the additional penny and to allow up to $3 million in revenue from the tax to be used for roads and other infrastructure to lure a developer there, despite not seeing any specifics on the project.
Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, who pushed the measure, said the project is not yet firmed up but he felt comfortable with what he sees as a rare economic development opportunity for his north Lafayette district.
“It would be a beautiful day if people were busting down doors in that area to build,” he said.
Boudreaux said the tax money will be used mainly for laying utility lines and building a frontage road along I-10 to improve access to the site, not for work within the commercial development.
“There is no internal infrastructure tied to this. This is only external. This is only to improve access,” he said.
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 the interchange — the only commercial development to take shape so far at a decade-old interstate exit that was expected to be booming by this time.
The council was facing a deadline to extend the tax because the extra penny would have fallen off the books at the end of April, when the original debt is expected to be repaid.
The council could still have brought back the extra penny, but it would have been a more involved process.
The penny will now stay on the books at least until the new debt is paid.
The development being considered for the area is still in the early stages, and the only publicly available information was a brief description of the project in council documents: a 42-acre site northeast of the interchange that might include a large grocery store, a theater, several restaurants, a shopping center and at least one hotel.
A broker for the property owners has confirmed that a Super 1 Foods is part of the plan.
The lack of information — or of any significant council discussion on the merits of the project — irked a group of residents who turned out Tuesday to speak against the proposal.
“There is a lot of talk about transparency in government. We would like a little more of it, please,” said James Mayard, a north Lafayette businessman.
Councilmen Andy Naquin, William Theriot and Jared Bellard opposed the measure.
“We are not in the business of selling people’s property,” Theriot said. “We are not in the business of providing incentives so someone can sell their property.”
Supporting the proposal were Boudreaux, Jay Castille, Brandon Shelvin, Don Bertrand, Keith Patin and Kevin Naquin.
Tuesday’s meeting became a bit tense when Boudreaux played a montage of video footage of past council meetings that showed some opponents of the current proposal seeming to speak in support of the extra penny sales tax that helped build infrastructure for the existing Target-anchored shopping center at the interchange.
Tea Party of Lafayette coordinator Joyce Linde, who was featured in the montage, demanded to address the council, complaining that her statements had been taken out of context, but Boudreaux slammed his chairman’s gavel and directed the council’s security officer “to remove her from the room.”
“I will walk out,” Linde shot back.
The sales tax rate at the interchange will remain at 10 percent until Dec. 1, when the rate will drop to 9 percent after the Nov. 30 expiration of a temporary parish-wide tax voters approved last year to help pay for a new terminal at the Lafayette Regional Airport.