Council OKs rezoning plan

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- From left, Gonzales City Attorney Ryland Percy, Councilmen Kenny Matassa and Tim Vessel, and Police Chief Sherman Jackson react after a roll-call vote approving a rezoning move to allow Emerson to locate its regional headquarters at Edenborne, during Monday's regular meeting of the Gonzales City Council.
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- From left, Gonzales City Attorney Ryland Percy, Councilmen Kenny Matassa and Tim Vessel, and Police Chief Sherman Jackson react after a roll-call vote approving a rezoning move to allow Emerson to locate its regional headquarters at Edenborne, during Monday's regular meeting of the Gonzales City Council.

Emerson permitted to consolidate in Gonzales development

Emerson Process Management appears to finally have a new home for its regional headquarters in Ascension Parish.

The Gonzales City Council on Monday unanimously approved the rezoning of 17.57 acres at the Edenborne development on La. 44 at Interstate 10 for the Fortune 500 company to consolidate its Ascension Parish operations and open a training center. The council rezoned the property from a “traditional neighborhood development” — the zoning for the rest of the 400-plus-acre Edenborne property — to a C-2 commercial zoning with a special use permit.

The permit will allow Emerson to conduct software engineering, application development and systems integration; technical training and education; sales and engineering of products; testing, calibration and servicing of products; and the fabrication and assembly of products. In addition, the permit allows a fenced or screened laydown yard and warehousing in excess of 10,000 square feet.

A round of applause spread throughout the council chambers after the rezoning needed for the project, which had been debated for weeks, gained final approval.

“Yes, hallelujah!” said Councilman Terance Irvin, who had previously fought against Emerson locating in a residential neighborhood in the city and receiving an industrial zoning designation.

Marlin Wilson, the head of Emerson’s Ascension Parish operations, said he was happy with the outcome of the vote Monday night, which arrived on the same day as his birthday and the first day he was walking without crutches after breaking an ankle several weeks ago.

“It’s awesome,” Wilson said. “It’s a great thing that the mayor and business leaders and people in the community rallied behind us and supported the project. It’s a great thing for Gonzales, and I think it speaks well for the future of Gonzales.”

Emerson had sought to purchase residential property on West Orice Roth Road in Gonzales and have it rezoned industrial. The council approved that request in June, but several local residents sued the city to block the move.

Instead of waiting out a potentially lengthy litigation process, Emerson officials sought a new piece of property to purchase.

After River Parishes Community College decided to locate its new campus at Edenborne, Emerson officials thought it made a lot of sense for them to move into the area as well, opening doors for potential partnerships. But their initial attempt to do so was blocked by the council, which voted against an industrial zoning on March 18.

Ascension Chamber of Commerce officials immediately put pressure on the council members to reconsider their decision, and Mayor Barney Arceneaux met with council members to work on a compromise that would finally bring Emerson to Gonzales. Wilson said his company had opportunities to move elsewhere but wanted to remain in Ascension Parish.

Councilman Gary Lacombe said he was against an industrial zoning designation because of what it could mean for future development at Edenborne if Emerson ever merged with or was acquired by another company. He supported the special-use permit because it allowed the city to retain some control over the property’s future use.

“This was never about Emerson,” he said. “We love Emerson. This was about zoning.”

Arceneaux said he was relieved that the lengthy process was finally coming to a close.

“It’s a long time coming, no doubt about it,” Arceneaux said. “I’m just very pleased we were able to get it through. Surely it’s going to be an asset to the city, and also to Edenborne.”