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.

Port Marigny, the proposed mixed-use development that consumed Mandeville city politics for nearly four years, is alive again, now that the property owners and the city have reached a deal in federal court that will allow up to 350 housing units to be built on the 76-acre lakefront site, in accordance with limits set by a City Council ordinance adopted in December.

The consent judgment agreed to in court states that the owners have five years to get a building permit and that the city's insurers will pay the owners an unspecified sum of money.

Mandeville's controversial Port Marigny project finally headed for its day in court

The Mandeville City Council had rejected the owners' plans two years ago, citing problems with elevation. It said some of the land was below 5 feet above sea level, where development is prohibited by law. But density was the biggest sticking point, with the original plan calling for more than 400 housing units, which critics said would overwhelm the city and cause traffic problems.

The owners, Marcus and Michael Pittman, sued a month later, saying the city had unlawfully deprived them of the right to use their property, and the lawsuit was scheduled to go to a jury trial last month. But the trial was delayed because U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said the two sides were working on an agreement.

According to Mayor Donald Villere, the consent judgment relieves the city of paying any damages to the Pittmans. They in turn have agreed to abide by the terms of the December ordinance, which sets strict limits on what can be built on the abandoned industrial site. 

A table in the ordinance says that 207 single-family homes, 41 attached single-family homes and 102 attached residential units that are listed as apartments and mixed-use buildings will be allowed.

The ordinance also sets out the maximum square footage for commercial uses and minimum requirements for open space.

The site formerly housed Prestressed Concrete, where the the spans for the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway were made. It has been dormant since the late 1970s.

About 10 years ago, the city specified in its land use plan that the site should become a so-called "traditional neighborhood development," a concept that includes mixed residential and commercial uses with buildings close together and an emphasis on walkability.

The Pittmans began trying to get approval of their plans in July 2015, but the project became embroiled in years of controversy, culminating in the council's vote to reject it.

In their lawsuit, the Pittmans maintained that the council's action amounted to an unconstitutional "taking" of their property.

Lawyers for Mandeville, property owners working on settlement in Port Marigny lawsuit

Villere said the settlement relied extensively on the law passed in December.

"I am grateful to have this matter concluded and to end the considerable expenditure of legal expenses this controversy has caused our city," he said.

He concluded that he hopes to see a development that contributes to Mandeville "rather than the abandoned site that exists there today."

The Pittmans said in a statement that they sued after they were denied approval of conceptual plans that "met all city zoning requirements and had been approved by the Planning and Zoning Commissions."

The project can now moved forward in compliance with city requirements and with review by the Planning and Zoning Commissions, their statement said, noting that the federal court will retain jurisdiction "to resolve any future disputes."

The Pittmans said they are pleased with the outcome and thankful to the city administration.

"Port Marigny will be a good thing for the city, and for the people of our community," they said.

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.