PLAQUEMINE — Reaction to a proposed motel near Plaquemine city limits along La. 1 was evenly divided Tuesday among residents attending a public meeting about the project. 

Residents opposed to the concept expressed concern that a motel near their residential community would devalue their property, possibly attract criminal activity and disrupt the historic charm of the subdivision.

Those who showed up to support Remi Gavini's project, however, stressed the need for new businesses and their trust in his vision.

Gavini intends to spend $1.3 million to build a two-story, 22-room motel and parking lot in the 23000 block of La. 1, across the street from the Best Western Plaquemine Inn. Should the business be successful, Gavini plans to expand the room count in another phase of construction. 

He owns the entire block. 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. The moratorium was adopted to give the city time to get a better handle on its future development and zoning needs.  

Mayor Ed Reeves said Tuesday the City Council would have to lift its restrictions on new property development to allow Gavini to start construction immediately on the new motel. Otherwise, Gavini would have to wait 4½ months to break ground, Reeves said. 

"But no decisions will be made tonight," Reeves told the residents who filled the council chambers. "We're just going to take all of your comments under advisement."

Those speaking against the project criticized the contemporary design of Gavini's proposal and said its open walkways don't give them confidence the establishment can be properly secured.

Mike Watts also wasn't reassured by Gavini's promise to live at the motel as a way to ensure it remains a quality establishment.

"If he can guarantee he'll be here to maintain it for the next 20 years, that's a different story, but he can't promise that," Watts said.

The project did receive support from other residents and from local event planners, who said they often have to send visitors to nearby communities for lodging because of room shortages in Plaquemine. 

"We need space in Plaquemine," Charlene Bishop said. "I know that when something new comes around, there's always something that someone doesn't like."

John Morgan, another supporter, later said, "We need to grow up and trust each other. (And) give an individual a chance to grow. This man followed every rule, but we want to stand here and pass judgement on what might happen."

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.