GONZALES — A New Orleans-based nonprofit is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to require the developer of a 103-acre mixed-use community in Gonzales to provide more information about its plans for drainage on the site, a portion of which is wetlands.
Heritage Crossing, now in the early stages of development, will bring residences, restaurants, retail, offices and a hotel to the corner of heavily traveled La. 30 and La. 44.
Construction of Heritage Crossing, the first walkable lifestyle center in Gonzales, is expected to ramp up in the next few months.
The development was also chosen this year as the site of the city's future Performing Arts, Conference and Events Center.
In June, the project's developer, Double D of Louisiana, applied for permit authorization from the Corps to clear, grade and excavate, as well as to place and maintain fill material, on the site that includes 26 acres of forested wetlands under federal control.
Healthy Gulf of New Orleans, which says its focus is to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf region, has said it's made a preliminary objection to the Corps over the project.
In a letter to the Corps, sent in the 30-day window for public comment following Double D's application this summer, Healthy Gulf says it objects to the development's planned use of concrete slab in construction for "residential and commercial development in forested wetlands of Boyle Bayou, in an Environmental Justice area."
An Environmental Justice area describes an area of a larger census tract where 20% or more of the residents live in poverty and/or at least 30% of the population is minority.
"It's a lot of asphalt and fill-in for wetlands," said Dustin Renaud, communications director for Healthy Gulf. "Where is all that water going to go? Very likely to communities of color."
Clay Stafford, president of the Double D development company, said Heritage Crossing will have ponds or basins, totaling 22 acres, connected by a system of underground pipes and edged with native plants to create drainage mitigation.
The development, he said, will follow all federal wetlands mitigation requirements.
"We're making the drainage to our upstream areas better than it is today," Stafford said.
The development advisory firm, CSRS, with offices in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lake Charles and Dallas, is handling the Heritage Crossing permit application process for Double D of Louisiana, owned by brothers Ronnie and Vance Daigle.
Ricky Boyett, a spokesman for the Corps of Engineers, said the agency's environmental assessment of the Heritage Crossing development is underway.
"We'll collect all the data, assess it and come to a decision," he said. "It's still early in the process. It's a fairly complex project."