Rezoning request heads to Gonzales council vote

The stage has been set for a showdown at the next Gonzales City Council meeting after two councilmen indicated Monday they’re against rezoning for a proposed new business that’s received wide support.

In January, Jimmy Boyce III, of PHL Investments, in Gonzales presented a request for a zoning change from C-1 light commercial to C-2 commercial for approximately 22 acres on South Burnside owned by the PriceCo company.

Boyce said he has an agreement with PriceCo to purchase 5 acres to build and lease a warehouse and distribution center to Crawford Electric, a subsidiary of the French company Sonepar.

At the public hearing that followed Feb. 3 and at Monday night’s council meeting during the comments portion, representatives of the Ascension Economic Development Corp., Ascension Chamber of Commerce, parish Assessor’s Office, a local banker and several Gonzales residents spoke in favor of the project in an apparent effort to head off a rejection of the rezoning request by councilmen Gary Lacombe, Timothy Vessel and Terance Irvin, who favor maintaining C-1 commercial in the city.

The Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended rezoning the property for the proposed electric supply company location to C-2, a zoning that allows for special use permits for such structures as a warehouse facility.

Any of the commission’s recommendations approved by the council Monday night will be voted on at the next council meeting Feb. 24.

The recommendation was approved to move forward to a vote with Councilman Kirk Boudreaux making the motion to accept the commission’s recommendation and Councilman Kenny Matassa seconding it.

But, first, Lacombe attempted to make an incorrect motion to deny the rezoning request outright. The incorrect motion, which was not allowed by city attorney Ryland Percey, was seconded by Vessel, to no avail.

Earlier in the meeting, which was standing room only, Irvin recused himself from voting on anything to do with the rezoning request, saying one of his relatives has property in that area.

“If we turn it down, we’re saying, ‘No, we’re closed for business,’ ” Boudreaux said. “We cannot keep saying no. I haven’t gotten one negative phone call from anyone” about the Crawford Electric project.

Vessel, however, said, “We need to preserve C-1 as long as we can.”

“Right now, it’s just a raw piece of land” with an assessed value of about $138, said parish assessor Mert Smiley of the property, one of those who spoke in favor of the Crawford Electric project.

If the property is rezoned and the business builds there, the Gonzales will receive approximately $11,000 in property taxes with the other entities of the parish receiving about $120,000 in property taxes, Smiley said.

“This business would become the sixth largest property taxpayer in the city,” he said.

When the original rezoning request was made in January, Boyce with PHL Investments said Crawford Electric, if built, expects sales at its Gonzales location to reach $50 million by 2015 and create 50 jobs, with average pay, for those employees who are commissioned, at $150,000.