PLAQUEMINE — Residents are concerned that a private developer's plan to build a 22-room motel along La. 1 near the city limits could draw a questionable clientele and cause their property values to drop.
Remi Gavini, who plans to build the motel on 3 acres of land he owns, said he's not investing $1.3 million into a project that he would neglect or allow to be tarnished by any kind of criminal activity.
Mayor Ed Reeves has scheduled a meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Plaquemine City Hall where Gavini and his design team will provide residents with detailed plans for the proposed motel, and residents will get an opportunity to voice their concerns to Reeves and the rest of the City Council.
"It's up to (Gavini) to convince them that he can run a good place," Reeves said. "He's trying to take advantage of the construction boom going on at the local plants, and he has a feasibility study that says Plaquemine needs three new motels in the next five years."
"We feel pretty good about it," Reeves said of the project. "But I don't want to see it turn into a crack house either in the next five years."
Councilman Lindon "Lin" Rivet, whose home is directly behind the proposed motel, also supports the project.
He did say, though, that he wants to listen to the concerns of his neighbors.
"I think it's going to be a good meeting. He can present his side and they can present their side," Rivet said. "Any time someone comes inside the city with a proposal, we want as much input from residents as we an get."
Gavini plans to build a 22-room motel in the 23000 block of La. 1, across the street from the Best Western Plaquemine Inn. He owns the entire block and the proposed motel would be near the Pelican Shoppette and laundromat, which he also runs.
Gavini said he intends to close the Pelican Shoppette and laundromat once the motel is built and operational.
The area is already zoned for commercial use, but the city recently enacted a six-month moratorium on any new commercial developments in the area.
Reeves said the moratorium would have to be lifted to allow Gavini to proceed with his plans. The mayor said the council adopted the moratorium to tighten the city's planning and zoning ordinances and make sure there is enough infrastructure in place to support the construction of a large-scale development like a motel.
"We have low water pressure in that area," Reeves said.
The city has already consulted with Gavini over his plans, addressing design concerns they had with the proposal.
Gavini said he wants to hear what residents have to say about the project, and he will try to allay their fears.
"I'm just asking they don't try and stop the project," he said. "I've done my research. This will help the city grow. I'm starting with 20 rooms and then will see how it goes. I want this to be beautiful, not cheap."
Resident Katie Anderson, however, isn't convinced. She based her concerns on how several of Gavini' rental properties previously at the site were poorly maintained by him.
Resident Katie Anderson, however, isn't convinced. She said she based her concerns on how poorly maintained several of Gavini' rental properties had been that were on the site. He has since demolished those rental homes to make room for the motel.
"I'm not trying to stop anyone from achieving their dreams," Anderson said. "I just don't want to see a motel a few feet from my house."
"Motels don't add value to your property," she said.
Pat Dorsey, another resident in the area, said she used to work at a motel and is concerned about what kind of clients the motel will attract.
"We already have enough problems now with people sleeping on benches and coming in and out of a nearby park late at night" Dorsey said. "We're trying to cleanup the area now and this will discourage anyone from wanting to move into the area.
Gavini said he's going to be living on the property after it's built, hoping that will ease residents' fears about the motel drawing criminal activity. He currently lives in Baton Rouge.
"Since I will live there, no hanky panky will happen," he said. "It will be my neighborhood, too. I'm going to be one of the citizens of Plaquemine, taking care of my neighborhood."