GONZALES — A developer plans to donate 41.5 acres near a school and neighborhoods — an attractive setting for a new park — to the city of Gonzales.
The acreage is half of an 80-acre tract on Orice Roth Road off La. 44 owned by Sonny Lamendola, a residential and commercial developer who also owns a local grocery store, Lamendola’s Supermarket.
“Yes, I would like this all to be a big park one day,” Lamendola, 86, said of the 41.5 acres.
Another smaller part of Lamendola’s property, adjacent to the proposed park, was in the limelight in a different way a few years ago, as the center of a zoning controversy.
This past February, Lamendola came before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission with plans to develop about 18 acres with combination office-warehouse businesses. It was the first step Lamendola had taken in some years on the acreage, at one time the proposed site of an international manufacturing company.
In 2012, the 18 acres were rezoned from residential to commercial by the Gonzales City Council for an Emerson Process Management plant, which refurbishes and remanufactures valves for industrial plants.
The move prompted a lawsuit from residents who live in the area to have the zoning decision overturned, and Emerson found another location for its plant, in the Edenborne development off La. 44.
The last stage in the three-year-old lawsuit may be coming this summer, with a trial date set for June 24.
“The only issue that remains to be litigated is the issue of whether this was spot zoning,” said Vacherie attorney Paul Aucoin, who represents the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs’ claim that the city hadn’t followed correct procedures in rezoning the property was dismissed in 2013 by Judge Jessie LeBlanc, of the 23rd Judicial District Court.
The adjacent land that one day may be a peaceful park for children, however, was never part of the controversy.
“It’s a very generous donation,” Gonzales City Clerk Clay Stafford said.
While some of the property is wetlands, “a significant part is good, usable property,” Stafford said.
The City Council will vote on accepting the property in May, he said.
Frank Cagnolatti, chairman of the Gonzales Planning and Zoning Commission, said it can take several years for a city to turn property into a park but it would be a bonus for Gonzales.
“I think the city’s real enthused,” he said.
Lamendola said the donation is a win-win proposition: the city gets the land for free, and he gets a tax break.
In addition to the donated property and the commercial office/warehouse development, Lamendola also plans to build 66 single-family homes on 18 acres of the original 80-acre property.
Of the land he’s offering to donate for a park, Lamendola said, “there will be about five (retention) ponds there that would one day make good fishing ponds.”
Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.