Multiple meetings about Port Marigny development site have resulted in little progress

The former Pre-Stressed Concrete Products plant, photographed Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Mandeville.

Mandeville officials remain locked in a legal dispute with landowners who want to create a mixed-use development on an abandoned industrial site, but nearly two years after rejecting the Port Marigny project, the Mandeville City Council is suddenly reviving the issue.

A new ordinance laying out what the city is willing to allow on the 78-acre lakefront parcel is listed on the agenda for the City Council's meeting Thursday under new business. It's up only for introduction, not for a vote. But it is still likely to draw a crowd.

Port Marigny opponents, who complained that the proposed development was too dense and would create traffic and other problems, packed meetings during the two years that the council and other city agencies dealt with the proposal.

And they've been outspoken about concerns that city officials might capitulate on key issues with landowners Michael and Marcus Pittman in an effort to reach an out-of-court settlement to the owners' suit against the city.

But the measure on Thursday's agenda is not the result of any negotiations. Councilman Mike Pulaski, who represents the area and is the sponsor of the ordinance, said the city has not come to any agreement with the Pittmans.

Rather than an olive branch, the ordinance is being described by some as a pre-emptive move by the city designed to counter the owners' contention that the council's rejection of the development amounted to an unconstitutional "taking" of their land, depriving them of the right to use it to their economic advantage.

That's the point of the ordinance, according to former Mandeville Councilman Ernest Burguières, a staunch opponent of the rejected proposal.

"There is a lot of mistrust swimming around, but this is an effort to short-circuit part of the litigation by establishing what Port Marigny can potentially do," Burguières said, adding that the ordinance would "take the meat out" of arguments that the city left the owners with nothing.

A table in the ordinance describes the number of residential units that would be allowed on the site: 207 single-family homes, 41 attached single-family homes and 102 attached residential units that are listed as apartments and mixed-use buildings. It also sets out the square footage for commercial uses and establishes minimum requirements for open space.

"On a cursory review, (the ordinance) appears to give Port Marigny the 350 units they last said they would accept," Burguières said in an email. But, he said, the city made an effort in this draft to impose restrictions. The 350 total is a cap, not a number the city would automatically approve, and the owners also would not get automatic variances to other city regulations, such as those that don't allow development on land lower than 5 feet above sea level.

Pulaski described the new ordinance as very different from what the council voted down in 2017. As far as density is concerned, for example, the owners could have as many as 350 units, but only if they can meet every other requirement, he said. "The way it's worded it does not grant an entitlement," he said.

He said that the new ordinance is a far better fit with Mandeville's land-use ordinance than the Pittmans' proposal.

"Personally, I view it as a way to move forward," Pulaski said.

Richard Muller, an attorney for the Pittmans, did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.