LIVINGSTON — Annexations into the town of Livingston may prove to be the death knell for a proposal to incorporate the neighboring community of Satsuma.
Judge Brenda Ricks, of the 21st Judicial District Court, ruled late Monday that the incorporation election previously set for March 28 cannot be held until disputes over the new town’s proposed boundaries are resolved, attorney Drake Lewis, who requested the injunction, said Tuesday.
Chief among the judge’s concerns, Lewis said, was a recent annexation by the town of Livingston that cut away a swath of business and residential properties from Satsuma’s proposed town limits, as well as all of Interstate 12 between the Livingston and Satsuma interchanges.
The city limits of Walker, which lie to Satsuma’s west, already include the stretch of I-12 between Walker and Satsuma.
That means Livingston’s annexation effectively cut Satsuma into northern and southern halves, unconnected to one another and thus legally incapable of incorporating as a single town. State law requires that communities seeking incorporation include only “contiguous,” or connected, land.
Petition organizers have said parish officials’ plans to locate a general aviation airport south of I-12 at Satsuma prompted the incorporation effort. They said becoming a municipality was the best way for community residents to have a voice in how the area is developed.
Whether the incorporation effort will continue to push forward if the residents north of I-12 can no longer include in their town the thousands of acres of vacant land south of I-12, including the proposed site for the airport, is unclear. Petition co-chairman Harvey L. Arledge did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
Organizers behind the “Save Satsuma” Facebook page appeared to indicate after Monday night’s hearing that the push to form a town was over, posting, “It all ended tonight.”
Representatives of the state Attorney General’s Office and Secretary of State’s Office, both parties to the lawsuit, confirmed Tuesday that neither agency plans to appeal the ruling.
Several area landowners have said the incorporation effort was nothing more than a land grab anyway.
Developer Garry Lewis, who owns 2,000 acres within the proposed 6,500-acre town of Satsuma, including the land where the airport would be located, and prominent businessmen like Marvin Henderson, of Henderson Auctions, and Valery Watts, of V. Watts Furniture, fought back against the incorporation by holding town hall meetings and seeking annexation into the town of Livingston.
Henderson’s son, Jeffrey Henderson, and other area residents represented by Drake Lewis, Garry Lewis’s son, filed the lawsuit last week that led to Monday’s ruling postponing the election.
Marvin Henderson also has asked the town of Livingston to annex 265 acres he owns on Black Mud Road at the Satsuma interstate exit. To do that, Livingston would have to annex another section of the interstate — this time, a piece Walker owns between Satsuma and the Middle Colyell Creek bridge.
Livingston Mayor Derral Jones formally requested last month that Walker de-annex that portion of I-12 — a proposal that will be up for public hearing at Walker’s next City Council meeting on March 9.
Jones said Henderson’s request, like others from Satsuma-area residents, was prompted by the incorporation effort. Whether Livingston will actually annex the property depends in large part on how the Satsuma case proceeds and what Henderson’s wishes are at that point, Jones said.
If Walker de-annexes that portion of the interstate, it would create — at least temporarily — a new way for Satsuma to draw a contiguous map of lands both north and south of I-12. But the petition process, if required to start anew, would take longer than Livingston would need to move forward with another annexation.
Walker Mayor Rick Ramsey said Tuesday that de-annexing part of the city’s interstate holdings, while prompted by the Livingston mayor’s request on Henderson’s behalf, is not an effort to take a stand on either side of the Satsuma incorporation issue. “Whoever wants to battle that and fight it out, it’s up to them,” he said.
Ramsey said de-annexing a stretch of heavily traveled interstate would alleviate Walker’s burden of providing police patrols and primary emergency response there and allow the city to refocus its law enforcement within the city’s residential and commercial centers.
Jones, the Livingston mayor, said changing an existing city’s boundaries requires careful consideration of how the changes would affect the city’s ability to provide services.
“We’ve had people from the Satsuma community who have encouraged us to annex the entirety of Satsuma, but we’ve looked at the road mileage, drainage and policing issues, and there’s no revenue to be had, to speak of,” Jones said. “Those are things nobody thinks about but we have to consider, and annexing the entire town (of Satsuma) makes absolutely no sense for the town of Livingston.”
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen. Contact her by phone at (225) 336-6981.