Library officials unanimously agreed Thursday to move forward with pursuing the purchase of land at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center for a new branch in south Baton Rouge.
The move came at the same meeting that East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control President Travis Woodard put forward a motion to terminate and abandon a cooperative endeavor agreement between developer J.T. “Tommy” Spinosa and the city-parish over land Spinosa donated in 2010 in his mixed-use Rouzan development for the new branch.
The motion was born out of the frustrations expressed by the board for years over the lack of progress of infrastructure construction at the site. Woodard said it was obvious that the donated land at Rouzan was not going to work.
“It’s all come at a price too steep for us to pay,” Woodard said, referring to years of waiting to move forward.
Other board members warned Woodard it was too soon to pull out of the agreement and have the land revert back to Spinosa until the board finds an alternate site for the planned south Baton Rouge branch. The motion was tabled until next month.
Neither Spinosa nor his spokesman, Jeff Wright, attended the Thursday meeting.
The board passed a measure to begin professional services and feasibility studies on a proposed site on Kenilworth Parkway owned by the LSU System’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
Library Director Spencer Watts met with Pennington officials last week to talk about the library system’s interest in land there for a new library.
Pennington officials have ordered an appraisal to get an asking price for the land. Pennington officials told Watts LSU would be willing to sell anywhere from two to five acres from a 21-acre parcel up for sale. Watts said it could be weeks before the LSU appraisal comes back.
The library is also looking at another possible alternate site for the new south branch that is owned by Spinosa on a different part of the Rouzan development. But that site has an asking price of $2.5 million.
Board members Stanford Bardwell and Chip Boyles both said Thursday they were against spending that much taxpayer money on land near another parcel that has already been donated to the city-parish for the same purpose. The board took no action on the alternate Rouzan site for sale.
According to the motion passed Thursday, the feasibility studies will include a request for the city-parish Department of Public Works to perform a site survey at the Pennington parcel and to garner estimates on the size and exact location of the land they need from the 21-acre spot.