Records: Stewart only owns 13.58 acres at Parc Lafayette site
MD-turned-developer Glenn Stewart told The Independent Weekly for a Feb. 23 story that he had invested $15.5 million in land costs, having purchased all 34 acres of his proposed Parc Lafayette lifestyle center in 2009, and another $4 million in infrastructure costs over the past six months. But records with the Lafayette Parish Tax Assessor’s Office reveal that’s not the case, that he only owns a portion of the tract, and Stewart clarified Thursday that he has a contract on the remaining acreage.
In January 2009 Stewart Family LLC, Birch Tree Estates LLC and Townhouse Plaza LLC purchased 13.58 acres, the front portion of the Kaliste Saloom Road/Camellia Boulevard tract, from the Saloom family for $7.01 million. But the remaining larger parcel down Camellia, 19.39 acres, is still owned by Saloom LLC and Pine Farm Limited Partnership LLC, according to the assessor’s office. So why should that matter for a private developer? Because Stewart is asking the Lafayette City-Parish Council to approve the creation of special taxing districts at the site so that he can develop a four- or five-star hotel and convention center, a request that has sparked controversy and outrage among some residents.
The proposed economic development districts — also called a Tax Increment Financing district — are on prime real estate acreage across the street from upscale River Ranch. These types of incentives were made possible by the Louisiana Legislature in 2002 when it amended decades-old incentive laws to allow for a wider range of economic development projects. The proposal before the council calls for an additional 2 cent sales tax and 2 cent hotel occupancy tax at the hotel, and a 1 cent sales tax in the retail development that will surround the hotel. The base sales tax of 8 percent would continue to line the coffers of the state, local government and the Lafayette Parish School Board, and absolutely no tax dollars are on the hook if the development fails; the additional tax expires when the bonds are paid off.
In a brief phone conversation this morning from San Francisco, where he was in a business meeting, Stewart clarified that he has options on the remaining acreage. “We’re in a contract. We’ve got the money set aside. We’ve already done the wetlands work. We spent $100,000 getting the wetlands mitigated on that property,” he said. “It’s under contract. We just haven’t closed on it yet.” So, does Stewart believe having a contract equates to a purchase? “With the amount I have down in it, yes I do,” he said. He declined to specify just how much he has invested in the parcel.
Stewart also declined to name the high-end women’s department store that will anchor the retail portion of his development, despite that he says a lease has been finalized. He also would not disclose the names of the tenants he says have signed leases for 62,500 square feet of retail at the site. “I’d rather not,” he said. “I’m working with the leasing agent, and some of the tenants would rather their name not be disclosed because they’re in other current locations right now. Without knowing for sure [if they would be OK with releasing their names], I’d rather not.”
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.