St. George breakaway could divide school into 2 municipalites
An LSU official said Tuesday that the university is entertaining conversations about annexing parts of its campus into the city of Baton Rouge, amid the looming possibility of the new city of St. George forming in East Baton Rouge Parish.
The main campus of LSU is in Baton Rouge, but Ben Hur Farm and Innovation Park are inside the proposed boundaries of St. George.
Interest in LSU’s southern properties fuels speculation the city-parish is trying to annex a pathway to L’Auberge Casino — one of the three main economic generators for the new city, along with the Mall of Louisiana and Perkins Rowe.
LSU System President F. King Alexander first became aware of the issue that LSU’s campus could be split across two cities during a meeting with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and other constituents to discuss a variety of issues, according to Jason Droddy, LSU’s interim vice president of communications.
Droddy said other LSU officials are in frequent contact with city-parish officials to address football game traffic, public works concerns and other issues, which has led to other conversations about annexation.
Asked if LSU is interested in annexation, Droddy responded, “I would characterize it as a point of conversation internally.”
LSU does not have a position on the effort to incorporate St. George at this time, Droddy said.
William Daniel, chief administrative officer for Mayor-President Kip Holden, said LSU and L’Auberge Casino Hotel are just two of many businesses the city of Baton Rouge is talking to about the impacts of St. George.
He said the city’s interest in LSU is logistical, and not necessary related to obtaining L’Auberge Casino.
“LSU is a daily part of what the city deals with: with traffic issues, public safety issues, game day issues, lately we’ve been talking about plans for the Nicholson corridor,” he said.
“LSU and the city are joined at the hip on quite a few different projects and it became a topic of discussion.”
He said the city-parish is being contacted frequently with questions from other local businesses that have expressed interest in annexation.
“This is not just being confined to LSU,” Daniel said. “Celtic (studios), Costco and other businesses are approaching us on a daily basis.”
He said St. George “is creating uncertainty about taxes” and businesses are contacting city-parish officials about what they can do.
Without annexing LSU, it would be much more difficult for the city to annex L’Auberge. The city can only annex properties adjacent to its boundaries. Annexations are generally initiated by a petition of the landowners.
With larger swaths of land, state law permits annexation to be decided by an election, called by the municipality of after a petition of the landowners.
“Yes, it does provide a path to L’Auberge; you can look at a map to see that,” Daniel said. “But the real issue with LSU is that it should be under one city government.”
L’Auberge Casino representatives declined to respond to questions about whether they are interested in annexation.
“L’Auberge Casino Hotel Baton Rouge enjoys a great relationship with the City of Baton Rouge and the East Baton Rouge Parish. Any efforts regarding the incorporation of St. George should be left up to the voting residents of the East Baton Rouge Parish,” L’Auberge officials said in a prepared email statement sent from spokeswoman Julie Collins.
St. George leaders are trying to collect 18,000 signatures on a petition to put the city proposal to a vote. The organizers have declined to disclose their signature counts, however they said in January that they had about 10,000.
Critics of the new city say St. George threatens to hurt the city-parish economy, by creating a $53 million budget deficit. St. George organizers say the deficit will be closer to $14 million.