Site for south Baton Rouge branch as part of Rouzan development first donated in 2010
Library officials are no closer to a south Baton Rouge branch site today than they were in 2010, when developer J.T. “Tommy” Spinosa donated land in his proposed Rouzan mixed-use development to the city-parish for a new library.
And without knowing the costs of one of the alternative sites being considered, it may take weeks, or longer, to move forward.
The board is scheduled Thursday to discuss three potential sites: the donated Rouzan land, another parcel at Rouzan being offered for $2.5 million, and an unrelated site on Kenilworth Parkway with an undetermined price.
Library Director Spencer Watts said he spoke with Pennington Biomedical Research Center officials about acquiring land on Kenilworth Parkway. Watts said the Pennington officials indicated they are interested in possibly developing the site as the location for a new library but are waiting for an appraisal before talking cost.
It could be weeks before that appraisal is completed, Watts said.
“They are willing to offer us 2 to 5 acres. We would need more than 2 acres. Three would be better and 4 or 5 would be ideal for possible changes or additions later,” Watts said.
Library board members’ frustrations with the delays associated with the original Rouzan donation led to the search for alternate sites.
The library project on the donated Rouzan land has been stalled by disputes over permits, traffic studies, infrastructure and who was responsible for each step in the construction process.
Under the cooperative-endeavor agreement between Spinosa and the city-parish, that donated property would be returned to Spinosa if another site is chosen for the library.
Earlier this month, the board voted to name two other possible sites: the Pennington property and the site on Rouzan that Spinosa is offering for $2.5 million.
The board on Thursday will hear a report from Parish Attorney Leo D’Aubin on the process to enter into an option or purchase agreement for the Pennington property as well as the alternate Rouzan site.
Jeff Wright, a spokesman for Spinosa, said Tuesday that board members are not the only people frustrated over the lack of progress at the donated land site at Rouzan.
“Everything is at a standstill until they decide what they (board members) want to do,” Wright said, referring to the cooperative-endeavor agreement on the donated land. “The board doesn’t seem to be in agreement about how to move forward.”
Board member Stanford Bardwell said he strongly opposes pursuing the $2.5 million site at Rouzan.
“I think that it would be a disaster to do that. Just foolish,” Bardwell said.
Bardwell has balked at spending $2.5 million of taxpayer money for new property when the library board already has donated land in the same area.
From a purely geographical point of view, Bardwell said, he likes the Pennington site for a new library if the board decides not to go forward with the donated Rouzan land.
However, he said he and other board members will need to hear details about possible flood zone issues and the land elevation at the Pennington site to determine if there would be significant mitigation costs associated with developing the Kenilworth property.
“It’s a complex situation,” Watts said. “Nobody likes that it has taken this long but everyone needs to weigh all the factors before deciding how to get this library branch in place.”
Thursday’s meeting starts at 4 p.m. at the Fairwood Library Branch, 12910 Old Hammond Highway.