Rouzan developer ‘frustrated’ by library board inaction

Rouzan developer J.T. “Tommy” Spinosa said Wednesday he is “frustrated” by the lack of movement from the city-parish on an agreement to build a library branch at the Perkins Road development.

Spinosa signed a revised version of the agreement — the third — just minutes before the May 16 meeting of the board that oversees East Baton Rouge Parish’s library system, but board members refused to endorse it, complaining they did not have adequate time to review it.

Since that meeting, Spinosa said he had not heard from Assistant Parish Attorney Leo D’Aubin, who is negotiating the agreement on behalf of the city-parish, or any board members.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” Spinosa said. “I reached out to them and asked them to please let me know” about any problems.

The Library Board, at its meeting in May, instructed staff to look for alternative locations for a south Baton Rouge branch library.

Spinosa said Wednesday he has had inquiries from a variety of businesses about locating in the library’s spot, should they choose to walk away from the project.

“It’s a phenomenal restaurant site,” he said. “There’s not much that doesn’t work there.”

But, Spinosa said, he was committed to having a library on the site.

Spinosa sent D’Aubin and board member Travis Woodard an email on May 30 asking for any concerns to be presented to him by this past Monday.

“The last time I spoke to them was at the library board meeting,” Spinosa said.

In an email Tuesday, D’Aubin said some library board members voiced concerns about “ambiguities” in the agreement, which Spinosa said he found frustrating.

“Every step of the way, the ambiguities have been addressed. Then there are more ambiguities, then more,” he said.

Major players on the city-parish side, including D’Aubin, Library Director Spencer Watts, Library Board Member Stanford O. Bardwell Jr. and representatives from the Department of Public Works gathered Tuesday to discuss the agreement.

“It was the first working meeting of representative interests on the subject since the last board meeting,” Bardwell said. “There was some tweaking of language.”

Many of the tweaks were technical in nature, Bardwell said. He said both he and Watts pushed for a more specific time line on the construction of certain infrastructure related to the project, he said.

“If we find that he’s a month behind and we learn that what’s supposed to happen has not happened, we want the option in phases to walk,” Bardwell said.

Walking away from the project could present new problems.

“It’s hard to find a good tract of land in that area that would be as accessible as we would like it to be and for it to be affordable,” Watts said. “We can find a lot of smaller lots but they are designed for smaller retail outlets.”

Watts said Lee High School, which had been mentioned as a potential site, has not been ruled out.

“It’s a great idea, but it may not be as easy as it appears to be,” he said.