Ending of agreement on property with Spinosa goes to Metro Council
The East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control voted Thursday to recommend the city-parish end an agreement with J.T. “Tommy” Spinosa to locate a new library in the Rouzan mixed-use development.
The 2010 agreement laid out that Spinosa would donate land in the proposed Rouzan development for the new library branch. Progress on the library has been delayed by traffic studies, infrastructure problems, and questions about which responsibilities would fall to the city-parish and which would fall to Spinosa in getting the project built.
The agreement specifies if the board decides to build the library elsewhere, the donated land returns to Spinosa.
The idea to terminate the agreement was floated by board President Travis Woodard at the board’s September meeting, but concerns about ending the agreement and having the donated land revert to Spinosa before the board finds an alternative site halted a vote.
On Thursday, Woodard again said it is time to move forward with finding another site for the library.
The library service area in question runs generally from Essen Lane on the east, Perkins Road to the north, from Stanford Avenue to the west and down to the river to the south.
Board member Stanford Bardwell Jr. said the problem with the agreement has been enforcing a time schedule for construction.
“The only real teeth in something like this is a stiff financial penalty,” he said, and that type of penalty isn’t included in the agreement and likely would not ever be included.
Bardwell also said the donated Rouzan site isn’t as desirable as once thought: The library branch would be an island, with the library board in control of only the footprint of the building.
Although the concept of building within the mixed-used development was interesting, he said, it’s time the board go back to the traditional way of building a library branch and buy some land outright.
There is, however, a scarcity of properties on which to build a branch library within that south Baton Rouge service area, board members said.
One available property is 3.1 acres at the east end of the Rouzan development along Perkins Road, but the asking prize is $2.5 million.
Earlier in the meeting, the board voted to explore what a supportable price for that property would be based on surrounding land values, and to make an offer to Spinosa.
So when the discussion of returning Spinosa’s donated property came up, board Vice President Tanya Freeman questioned what the public would think about turning around and buying another tract from Spinosa.
Woodard countered that the two alternatives are mutually exclusive.
Several board members expressed concern about terminating the agreement because the library board doesn’t have a “Plan B” alternative site on which to build a library branch.
Woodard said the process of trying to reach agreements with Spinosa has been so difficult and time consuming, “I guess I would argue we don’t have a plan A at the moment.”
The final vote on recommending to the city-parish that it terminate the agreement had Bardwell, Woodard and Jason Jacob voting in favor, Charles “Chip” Boyles II voting no and Freeman abstaining.
Kizzy Payton was not at the meeting.
Calls and emails to Spinosa on Thursday evening after the board meeting weren’t returned by deadline.