About 44 acres of the former Colonial Golf and Country Club site could be preserved as green space under a deal Harahan officials are pursuing with a land conservation organization as part of a compromise paving the way for development of a proposed shopping center on another portion of the property.
City officials are in talks with the Land Trust for Louisiana, which would purchase about half of the 88-acre site and leave it undeveloped. The two sides hope to have a deal worked out by the end of the year, Harahan Mayor Vinny Mosca said.
“This administration is 100 percent dedicated to trying to preserve as much green space on Colonial as possible,” Mosca said.
Development of the former country club has been a hotly debated topic in Harahan for more than a year, with some residents expressing worry that the project could worsen issues with drainage and traffic in the area. To address their concerns, city officials and the property’s owners have been discussing the possibility of leaving portions of the property green since the shopping center plan was first floated last summer.
The Colonial property is owned by John Georges, publisher and chief executive officer of The Advocate, and developer Wayne Ducote.
The Harahan City Council last year approved a rezoning that split off 15 acres of the site for commercial development along Jefferson Highway. Another 20 acres will be used to handle drainage for the development.
Georges told city officials that he planned to hold off on development of the middle 40 acres of the property for at least a year while he and the city sought out groups that would be interested in buying it and keeping it undeveloped. Should that effort fail, Georges said, he would build homes on that section, in accordance with its existing zoning.
In recent months, the prospects of finding a buyer have seemed less than promising. Representatives of Georges told the council they contacted a variety of agencies and individuals since the plan was proposed but had no luck making a deal.
But Steve Villavaso, who works as a contracted planner for the city, told the council Thursday that recent discussions with land conservation groups have been going well.
“They have expressed some interest because of the type of project we have and the amount of land involved,” Villavaso said. “They would use the land as an asset for the city.”
The Land Trust for Louisiana so far seems to be the best option, Mosca said.
“We’re really centering on the Land Trust for Louisiana because that group has been user-friendly to us and receptive to the whole project, which would be considerable,” he said.
The areas of the property that are not used for the shopping center, drainage or the potential green space would be set aside for private homes for Georges and Ducote or their families.
The details of how the entire Colonial property will be used and managed will be laid out in an agreement between the city and the owners. That deal is still being tweaked by the City Council, with some members seeking more time to find a potential buyer for the middle area of the property. However, the council could take up the agreement at its September meeting.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.