Library board considers seven sites, including Rouzan, for new branch

The parish’s library board voted Thursday to visit seven properties soon to find an alternate location for a planned south Baton Rouge library branch if the current plan to build a new $6 million branch near the Rouzan development off Perkins Road falls apart.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control has been going back and forth with Rouzan developer J.T. “Tommy” Spinosa over when infrastructure should be built around the site.

Spinosa donated the Rouzan land to the city-parish in 2010 to build a library. But construction has been delayed by disputes over permits, traffic studies and who was responsible for each step of the construction.

The seven sites were culled from a list of 21 presented to the library board by its staff Thursday at its monthly meeting. Library Director Spencer Watts said only six or seven of the 21 sites would be considered viable based on location, land size, parking and wetlands issues.

The first site on the list of seven under consideration for purchase is on the Rouzan property, a planned mixed-use development on a 120-acre plot near Perkins Road and Glasgow Avenue southeast of College Drive. Last month, Spinosa offered to sell the property to the board for the proposed branch.

The site, to the east of the development near Perkins Road, is 3.17 acres and has an asking price of $2.5 million. Critics of the Rouzan library project have repeatedly called for the library board to walk away from the project. Spinosa first approached the library board in 2005 about the branch.

Neither Spinosa nor any of his representatives attended Thursday’s meeting.

A cooperative endeavor agreement between Spinosa and the city-parish for the donated land has been revised numerous times but never to the satisfaction of the library board.

Assistant Parish Attorney Leo D’ Aubin said Thursday that he put the agreement on the back burner while the library board decides whether to buy the land.

As soon as members know that the donated land from Spinosa will not be used, he said, the board needs to notify Spinosa.

Library Board Vice President Tanya Freeman said the board can’t vote on releasing the donated land back to Spinosa until they have first voted on buying new land for the branch.

Freeman said the board needs to visit the seven sites in the next two weeks and call a special board meeting to vote on picking a new property.

Watts said if the board decides to buy new property for the new branch, it’s possible the $6 million budget will have to be changed and increased.

The six other properties board members will visit are:

Land on the back left side of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center on Kenilworth Parkway.

Land at Burbank Drive east of Ben Hur.

Land at the southwest side of Burbank Drive and west of Lee Drive.

Land at Kenilworth Parkway and Perkins Road.

Land at Quail Run Drive, west of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center complex.

Land at a corner of Burbank Drive and Lee Drive that would be part of the Arlington Creek development.