Members of the board that governs East Baton Rouge Parish’s library system have expressed frustration over the latest delays in the Rouzan branch library project due to ongoing negotiations between the city-parish and developer Tommy Spinosa.
Spinosa donated the land on which the library is to be built as part of the larger, mixed-use residential and commercial Rouzan development he is building on the site on Perkins Road, southeast of College Drive.
The negotiations are geared toward updating the agreement between the city-parish and Spinosa. The agreement defines which party is responsible for each piece of the library project.
“For the last couple of months, the report back to the board has been that there have been ongoing negotiations about amending the cooperative endeavor agreement,” Library Board of Control member Travis Woodard said. “I am extremely frustrated.”
During a meeting of the Library Board on Thursday night, Woodard said he had identified three potential issues with the project.
“The permit office requires that the infrastructure is in place or a subdivision bond is in place before a permit is granted,” he said. “More problematic is the sewer, which has to be in place before we can get a permit.”
A third issue is parking: In the current plan, parking for the library is across the street from the library building, something Woodard said could require a waiver from the Planning Commission or the Metro Council.
These delays mean it could be 19 months before a library opens on the site, Woodard said.
Groundbreaking for the project originally was expected in the first quarter of 2011.
“We are a long way from being ready to advertise, and we are a longer way from even having a branch in south Baton Rouge that the residents can use,” Woodard said. “I would like to see a clear path forward of how we get through these issues.”
The delays could eventually scuttle the project, Woodard said.
“We have an obligation not to build a library if the development doesn’t go forward,” he said.
Spinosa, who attended Thursday’s Library Board meeting, said the delays were due to state transportation officials taking more than a year to approve the traffic study he conducted at the site.
“DOTD has been where we are delayed,” Spinosa said. “Point is, until I know when we could expect that permit, I wasn’t able to make any commitments.”
Spinosa said he had received notification in June or July that the permit had been granted.
“We believe our plans will be done in three weeks,” he said. “It will take us about 30 days to bid.”
That process, however, could be delayed until Feb. 1, owing to the holidays, he said.
“I think we are there, I think our timelines are in sync,” he said. “We have a bunch of houses under construction and we have been selling the hell out of lots.”
Spinosa said there is an existing sewer line ready to be tied into by the library, and he said he thought the parking issue had already been resolved.
“I don’t believe that’s anything that we have to go back to anybody for,” Spinosa said.
Woodard said the Feb. 1 date would be key.
“I heard from Tommy that by Feb. 1, he will seek bids on his infrastructure (in the development),” Woodard said. “I would treat any departure from that date as a violation of our agreement.”
Board member Tanya Freeman said the project needs to proceed quickly.
“It appears there has not been a sense of urgency,” she said. “We need to make sure we are giving the citizens what they are looking for in a timetable.”