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Drivers on Siegen Lane approaching Airline Highway are greeted by billboards for and against the City of St. George the Friday before Election Day, October 11, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La.

The owners of a five-story United Plaza office building off Essen Lane are the first to try to break away from the newly created city of St. George through a request to be annexed into the city of Baton Rouge.

Four United Plaza, a 75,000-square-foot office building at 8555 United Plaza Blvd., filed the annexation request Monday with the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council administrator and will be the “first of many annexations," said real estate attorney Charles Landry. 

Landry, managing member of 8555 United Plaza LLC, which owns the building, was involved in efforts in 2014 to annex several major commercial centers out of the then-proposed St. George area and into the Baton Rouge city limits. Those properties included much of the Mall of Louisiana, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Siegen Lane Marketplace and Baton Rouge General’s Bluebonnet campus.

The United Plaza building's owners want to remain in the city of Baton Rouge, Landry said, because of the predictability offered by local government. According to records from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, the owners of the building paid nearly $61,000 in property taxes in 2018. 

“We’re very happy with the Metro Council, the city police, the Planning Commission, the Department of Public Works and the other existing government subdivisions related to the city of Baton Rouge,” he said.

Landry said he's working with five other groups seeking to be annexed into Baton Rouge, including people who own properties, companies that own their properties and residential neighborhoods.

Drew Murrell, an attorney and spokesman for St. George organizers, said businesses and people need to seriously think about being annexed back into Baton Rouge. “Why did you not ask to get annexed in before?” he questioned.

Businesses and residents who request to be annexed into Baton Rouge are going to be disappointed because they will pay higher property taxes than they would in St. George, Murrell said.

“We’re building a city from the ground up,” he said. “Baton Rouge faces the same problems over and over again.”

There are two different mechanisms to be annexed into Baton Rouge: one under the existing East Baton Rouge Plan of Government and one set up by the state. Out of an abundance of care and caution, Landry said, Four United Plaza is adhering to both methods for annexation.

The process is made simpler because there are no registered voters living in the office building, he said. For a successful request to annex a subdivision, 50% plus one of the registered voters in the neighborhood have to be in favor of the request.

Until the St. George incorporation is finalized, property owners and businesses seeking to join Baton Rouge have to submit annexation requests only to the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council for approval. But once the incorporation happens, property owners would have to go through a two-step process. They would have to first be de-annexed from St. George, then petition for annexation into Baton Rouge.

Election results earlier this month show that 59%, or 32,293 people, of the more than 54,000 registered voters living in the St. George area cast ballots in the incorporation election to create the parish's fifth municipality, with a population of 86,000. The incorporation was approved by 54% of those who voted, or 17,422 people.

Nearly all areas east of Stumberg Lane and Pecue Lane within the boundaries of the proposed St. George voted to create the city.

The parts of St. George closest to the Baton Rouge city limits, including the neighborhoods around United Plaza Boulevard between the Interstate 10-12 split, generally were against the creation of the new city. Those areas are generally along Bluebonnet Boulevard, Highland Road, Perkins Road and Siegen Lane, and in some areas near Bayou Manchac west of Interstate 10.

Baton Rouge can accept annexation petitions only from areas that share a common border with the city.

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