Mayor-President Kip Holden put into motion the city-parish’s new land use and development plan, FutureBR, by appointing an implementation team Tuesday and outlining goals for the first three years.
He made the announcement at the Old State Capitol with FutureBR mastermind John Fregonese, an Oregon planning consultant.
“(FutureBR) won’t be a plan that sits on the shelf and collects dust. It will not be a vision without action,” Holden said. “Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and begin building the city and parish our citizens have said they want for the future.”
Holden named the following people to his implementation team:
• Troy Bunch, city-parish Planning Commission director.
• Chip Boyles, city-parish urban development director.
• Walter Monsour, executive director of the parish Redevelopment Authority.
• Sam Sanders, director of the Mid-City Redevelopment Alliance.
• Elizabeth “Boo” Thomas, president of the Center for Planning Excellence.
• Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District.
Holden also said he would use an unfilled position on his staff to hire a full-time person to oversee implementation of the plan.
The team will work with his office to prioritize projects and programs and determine how those projects will be funded.
Holden said he expects projects to find funding from the city-parish operations budget, bond proposals and public-private partnerships.
Fregonese divided early implementation into four components: transportation, urban renewal, upgrading the city-parish zoning codes and achieving a balanced housing market.
On transportation, Fregonese commended the Blue Ribbon Commission appointed earlier this year by Holden, which made specific and targeted recommendations to expand and overhaul the parish transit system.
The commission’s plan calls for seeking a combination of sales and property tax increases next year.
Fregonese also said the parish should seek another bond issue to improve the road infrastructure in connection with the transit improvements.
Similar to the parish’s Green Light Plan, Fregonese said the bond issue should attempt to alleviate traffic congestion, but also focus on connectivity and building sidewalks and infrastructure that compliments a public transit system.
“Baton Rouge is going to be the center of a city of a million (people),” Fregonese said after the announcement. “For any major city in the U.S., you have to have a viable transit system that helps move people.”
The transportation component of the plan is the only element so far linked to requiring a voter-approved tax to fund it.
Fregonese said he’s confident people will support funding transportation.
“People have stated they’re not neutral about it,” he said. “They think it’s valuable and they think it’s important to the future. If those people show up (to the polls), it will pass.”
Mid-City was identified as the best place to start targeting urban renewal projects.
Scotlandville and Old South Baton Rouge are other areas that eventually will be tackled, he said.
Updating zoning codes, and looking for “catalytic projects” will attract private investment into the area, particularly along Florida Boulevard and Government Street, Fregonese said.
Fregonese also said Baton Rouge will best attract growth by creating a housing market that meets the needs and wants of new homebuyers.
He said new surveys show people are more interested in communities that encourage walking than they were in 2004.
Homebuyers want neighborhoods with sidewalks and the ability to walk to retail and restaurants, he said.
“People need more than a house,” Fregonese said. “They need a neighborhood.”
A member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, James Gilmore Jr., said he was concerned Holden’s implementation team did not have a member representing north Baton Rouge.
“You have someone from downtown and from Mid-City,” he said. “If this is to be truly a plan that encompasses the parish, then why isn’t there representation from the upper north Baton Rouge, or even south Baton Rouge?”
Gilmore praised the plan, but said he does not want the under-developed areas in north Baton Rouge to be left out.
“Scotlandville, Glen Oaks, those people already feel neglected,” he said. “They feel left out of any type of development in the parish.”
The FutureBR plan took 18 months to develop and cost $1.9 million.
The plan replaces the outdated Horizon Plan, which was adopted in 1992.