Gonzales council approves zoning change for Emerson

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Marlin Wilson, center, director of Emerson Process Management's Ascension Parish operations, listens Monday as the Gonzales City Council reconsiders the company's rezoning request.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Marlin Wilson, center, director of Emerson Process Management's Ascension Parish operations, listens Monday as the Gonzales City Council reconsiders the company's rezoning request.

The Gonzales City Council introduced an ordinance Monday night that city officials say they hope will finally lead to Emerson Process Management’s finding a permanent home in the city.

A week after rejecting a zoning change that would have allowed Emerson to locate as an industrial company on 17.57 acres at the Edenborne development near Interstate 10 and La. 44, the council introduced an ordinance that would allow the project to go forward.

The new ordinance would rezone the property from “traditional neighborhood development” to C-2 commercial with a special-use permit.

Special uses allowed under the designation are software engineering, application development and systems integration; technical training and education; sales and engineering of products; testing, calibration and servicing of products; fabrication and assembly of products; a fenced or screened laydown yard; and warehousing in excess of 10,000 square feet.

Emerson plans to consolidate its Ascension Parish operations into a $16 million regional headquarters, locating nearly 200 jobs on the campus, including approximately 50 to 60 new jobs that will be created. The new headquarters will focus on Emerson’s valve manufacturing operations and will feature a training center, as well as space for sales, engineering and service personnel.

Emerson assists its industrial customers in production and processing associated with chemical, oil and gas, refining, pulp and paper, power, water and wastewater treatment plants.

Emerson originally planned to locate its headquarters on West Orice Roth Road, but controversy on a zoning change and a lawsuit by several residents blocked that move. Company officials then settled on Edenborne, where they hoped to partner with River Parishes Community College, which last week broke ground on a new campus on the property.

However, the council appeared to derail those plans when it voted 3-2 last week against allowing the zoning change. Terance Irvin, Gary Lacombe and Timothy Vessel voted against the project, but after meeting with Mayor Barney Arceneaux, the city officials came up with the compromise of zoning the property C-2 and granting Emerson a special use permit, Arceneaux said.

Councilman Kenny Matassa, who pushed for the council to reconsider its decision and bring the Fortune 500 company to Gonzales, called Emerson “one of the finest companies to ever operate in Ascension Parish.”

City Attorney Ryland Percy said the council’s vote last week ended any chance for an industrial rezoning, and the council couldn’t simply revote on the issue. Instead, a new zoning ordinance had to be introduced, and the council will make a final vote at its next meeting April 8.