Six new Lafayette economic development districts that come with additional sales and hotel occupancy taxes received preliminary approval Tuesday from the Lafayette City-Parish Council.

Final approval is scheduled for Dec. 17. A new city council takes office in January. There was discussion about postponing action until the new council takes office, but a motion to do so failed.


A water tower on the old Trappey's property near the Southwest Evangeline Thruway and Vermilion River is pictured Wednesday, November 20, 2019, in Lafayette, La.

Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, who also leaves office in January, with input from council members recommended the creation of economic development districts for downtown Lafayette, the Northgate and Acadiana malls areas, the former Trappey's property, the former Holy Rosary Institute and University Avenue gateway area. Five of the six come with 1% sales tax increases and 2% hotel occupancy taxes to fund the projects. The Trappey's project calls for a 2% sales tax per the developer's request.

Jeremiah Supple, a real estate owner who is part of an anti-tax group, said the Lafayette Parish Republican executive committee adopted a resolution opposing the new taxing districts. He said the districts smack of cronyism and questioned why some developers get the assistance while others don't.

Lafayette architect and developer Stephen Ortego, who is nearing completion on phase 1 of Vermilion Lofts downtown, urged the council to approve the districts. Phase 2 of the project technically is on hold, he said. Several downtown projects have been stalled or halted because downtown doesn't have sufficient sewer capacity.

"They were begging, begging, begging since I was in middle school for more residences downtown," Ortego said Wednesday. "How can you do that for 20 years and not have the infrastructure to provide for it?"

Ortego asked the council to move quickly to create the economic development districts. Two of his projects in the Trappey's Economic Development District depend on federal and state historic tax credits and the EDD. One part of the plan would restore the former Howard Johnson's motor lodge on Evangeline Thruway near Pinhook Road. The $10 million project, which will include a hotel with pool, restaurant and venue space, has to be finished before 2021 to utilize historic tax credits because the state legislature did not renew those tax credits, which expire at the end of 2021, he said. If the council delays action for a couple of months, that puts the project in a red zone where banks may be reluctant to approve loans.

The Trappey's EDD proposal, which is second in line to restoring the Howard Johnson's property, Ortego said, calls for a mixed-use development in historic buildings that once were part of the Trappey's canning facility on the Vermilion River between Pinhook Road and University Avenue. The privately owned buildings alone offer four acres for development. The developers envision residential space mixed with shopping, restaurants and co-working space; a hotel; boardwalks; amphitheater; and steps leading into the water.


Buildings on the old Trappey's property near the Southwest Evangeline Thruway and Vermilion River are pictured Wednesday, November 20, 2019, in Lafayette, La.

Stephen Hebert of One Acadiana supported the Downtown EDD to generate money for infrastructure the city should be providing such as sidewalks, sewer and drainage.

The proposed taxes with the Downtown EDD would generate about $700,000 in new revenue, Downtown Development Authority Anita Begnaud said Tuesday. 

For the development districts to be finalized, the city-parish council has to approve two ordinances Dec. 3 that were introduced Tuesday, one of which is a cooperative endeavor agreement with the developers of each project. Then the city-parish council or new city council would need to convene as the economic development district board for each district and approve the cooperative endeavor agreement for each before the tax is implemented.

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