Legacy Court, a small neighborhood of 35 homes off Coursey Boulevard, became the first group of homeowners to petition for annexation into the city of Baton Rouge.
A group of women who say they’ve lived in the neighborhood for decades led the petition drive in their neighborhood — motivated by a commitment to the city they’ve grown up in coupled with a fear of the unknown if they were to end up in the proposed city of St. George.
Over the past year, a handful of businesses located within the proposed boundaries of St. George — including the Mall of Louisiana and L’Auberge Casino & Hotel — petitioned to be annexed into the city of Baton Rouge.
In most cases, the annexations, which also include several large vacant parcels of land in the southwest part of the parish, were sought by Baton Rouge officials hoping to shrink the footprint and the budget of the potential new city.
St. George’s proposed budget would rely primarily on sales taxes from businesses in its proposed boundaries, so when any of those businesses are annexed into the city of Baton Rouge, it prevents St. George from accessing those dollars. Annexations have already shrunk St. George’s proposed budget by about 20 percent.
A small residential neighborhood doesn’t have much of a financial impact to either city. But it is the first time residents have organized to say they’d rather be in Baton Rouge than St. George.
“We’ve been here all of our lives,” said Gloria Sicard, a Legacy Court homeowner. “St. George is something we just do not want.”
Only land adjacent to the boundaries of the city of Baton Rouge can be annexed. In the cases of large acres of land, or a business campus, a single landowner can petition for annexation. But in the case of a neighborhood, more than 50 percent of the homeowners must sign a petition requesting the change.
About 65 percent of the Legacy Court homeowners signed the petition to be annexed.
Cami Miller, a Legacy Court homeowner, said in an interview that she doesn’t understand St. George proponents’ complaints that the government has neglected the southern part of the parish.
“We have expanded the road systems, we have so much,” Miller said. “The city of Baton Rouge has continually invested in south Baton Rouge, whether the people are willing to appreciate it or admit it.”
By joining the city of Baton Rouge, the 35 homeowners will be subjected to higher property taxes because they will now pay the Capital Area Transit System property tax.
Lionel Rainey, a spokesman for the St. George effort, said incorporation leaders support the neighborhood’s choice.
“If these residents want to annex into the city of Baton Rouge and immediately raise their taxes, we support their rights to do that,” Rainey said. “We hope that the same right is given to the nearly 20,000 registered voters who have asked to have this be brought to a vote of the people.”
After collecting signatures for more than a year, St. George organizers in October submitted a petition with about 18,000 signatures to the parish Registrar of Voters. If the signatures are validated, then voters will likely decide in a March election whether or not to create the new city.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the Legacy Court annexation. Council members Tara Wicker, Ryan Heck and Scott Wilson were absent from the vote.
It’s the first time Councilman Buddy Amoroso, an outspoken St. George proponent, has voted in favor of an annexation.
“I’ve always believed in the rights of people to be heard, which is why I support people’s right to vote,” Amoroso said. “This is the first annexation I will vote for because these are real people and these are real homes.”
Councilman Joel Boé said after the meeting that he took issue with Amoroso’s logic.
“So (65) percent of the homeowners makes it OK, but 100 percent of business owners is not OK for annexation,” he said of Amoroso’s votes against previous annexations. “Seems a little double-sided.”
Legacy Court joins L’Auberge Casino & Hotel, the Mall of Louisiana — which is being legally challenged — Celtic Studios, Costco, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, LSU’s Ben Hur Research Station and a handful of vacant parcels of land in the southwest part of the parish.
In other business Tuesday, the Metro Council approved three new Capital Area Transit System routes that will provide quicker, limited-stop access between the Garden District, LSU and Nicholson Drive to downtown.
The council was first asked to approve the new routes in October, but it deferred the matter after an attorney representing Secretary of State Tom Schedler opposed the routes.
Wade Shows, Schedler’s attorney, said buses downtown were blocking the entrance of the Old State Capitol by parking in fire zones and spaces reserved for the handicapped.
CATS CEO Bob Mirabito said he’s working with city officials to find an alternate location for the downtown bus hub, where riders can catch a connecting bus. Once a new location is determined, he said, CATS officials will reconfigure their routes and could stop parking the buses by the state building as early as March. The proposed Nicholson shuttle will not start until the new downtown hub can be identified, to prevent additional buses from collecting in front of the Old State Capitol.
One of the two new routes that will start in February is the LSU Express, a nonstop shuttle from the LSU campus to the Florida Boulevard Terminal, traveling through the Garden District. The route will run Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The other new route is the Garden District Trolley, which connects downtown to the Garden District and to the Perkins Road Acadian Village Shopping Center. It runs Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., every 30 minutes. On Saturday, it runs from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow City Hall Buzz blog at http://theadvocate.com/news/10586811-123/new-cats-routes-up-for">http://blogs.theadvocate.com/cityhallbuzz.