The board that oversees East Baton Rouge Parish’s library system on Thursday discussed ways to keep long-delayed plans for a branch library at the Rouzan development moving forward.
The discussion centered on how to obtain a state permit for a driveway cutout from Perkins Road. The permit is needed to access the building site so construction can begin early next year, library officials said.
The library is to be built on donated property just southeast of College Drive — part of Rouzan, a mixed-use commercial and residential development being built by Perkins Rowe developer Tommy Spinosa.
Library Director David Farrar told board members that Spinosa’s development team delivered construction documents for the library a week ago that will be presented to the board for approval in November.
Farrar said the library board has to decide whether to apply to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development for a permit for the driveway cutout on Perkins Road.
Spinosa said in an Oct. 11 letter to Farrar that the city-parish and library are responsible for filing the application. However, Farrar said the parish attorney’s office advised him that the developer is responsible for applying for the permit.
Board member Laurence Lambert said Spinosa is still working with DOTD on a traffic impact study for the larger Rouzan project that includes access points to the development.
“I don’t have a sense for when that will be completed, but my understanding is driveway permits will not be issued piecemeal,” Lambert said. “DOTD wants to look at the development as a whole and to only issue permanent driveway permits.”
John Berry, a library board critic who frequently attends meetings, chastised the board for allowing the developer to delay work on a long-promised branch library.
“The continual delays allowed this developer by this board have been an unconscionable abrogation of its responsibility to the citizens of this parish,” Berry said.
He recounted problems the developer has run into with other projects, including Perkins Rowe, which is in foreclosure.
“This has become a years-long farce of the tail wagging the dog,” Berry said. “Mr. Spinosa is the tail and you, the library board, are the dog.”
Berry asked for, but was denied, further time to speak after his three-minute public comment period had expired. Later in the meeting, he was ejected and escorted out by a sheriff’s deputy after he continued asking questions from the audience.
Another resident, Kathy Wascom, told board members she wants to see the library branch at Rouzan go forward, even if it means the library has to pay to build infrastructure to the site.
“You own a piece of prime real estate that is ideal for a library location,” Wascom said. “As owner of the property, I don’t think this has to be held hostage by anything Mr. Spinosa does or does not do.”
Board member Stan Bardwell said if there is a problem getting a state permit for a driveway cut at Perkins Road, the library might be able to obtain temporary access to the building site from Glasgow Avenue.
Speaking after the meeting, Lambert said he did not think that step would be necessary.
He said it should be possible to obtain a state permit for a driveway cut at Perkins Road before the library is ready to start construction of a branch at the Rouzan site in February or March.