BY FAIMON A. ROBERTS III
Advocate staff writer
March 24, 2013
Rouzan developer J.T. “Tommy” Spinosa has 270 days to complete the infrastructure around a proposed library branch in his mixed-use development near Perkins Road, according to an agreement reached Thursday with East Baton Rouge Parish officials.
Spinosa handed a memo to Assistant Parish Attorney Leo D’Aubin just before a 4 p.m. meeting of the Library Board of Control detailing his willingness to discuss completing several elements of the Rouzan development before a library is built on the site.
Officials from the city-parish’s Department of Public Works, D’Aubin and Spinosa had met several times over the past several weeks to come to an agreement about what would be required before the city-parish would build a library on the site, D’Aubin said.
Under the new agreement, which hasn’t yet been put into writing, Spinosa would add turn lanes to Perkins Road and Glasgow Avenue, a stoplight on Perkins at the entrance to Rouzan, a parking lot, all of the roads around the proposed library site and all the utilities, D’Aubin said.
D’Aubin and Spinosa met briefly before the Library Board convened its meeting, and D’Aubin presented the agreement to the board, which voted unanimously to give Spinosa and city-parish officials the go-ahead to put the agreement into writing. One member of the board — Standford O. Bardwell Jr. — was absent.
In November, the Library Board gave Spinosa until Feb. 15 to either complete an entrance street from Perkins to the library site, a parking lot, and drainage, or to have a bond in place ensuring that he would do so.
Spinosa presented a bond to the board at its Feb. 21 meeting, but D’Aubin expressed doubts about whether the bond offered the city-parish sufficient protection in case Spinosa could not complete the work. At that meeting, the board gave Spinosa and city-parish officials 30 days to resolve those issues.
The new agreement is a result of those discussions, D’Aubin said. He said city-parish officials “worked diligently” with Spinosa’s company, 2590 Associates, the past three weeks and decided it would be in the city-parish’s best interests to wait until the infrastructure was installed before proceeding with the library.
In response to a question from board member Tanya Freeman, Spinosa said he was on board with the new agreement.
In an interview after the item had been voted on, Spinosa said coming up with the proposed agreement had not been easy.
“It’s been a long week,” Spinosa said. “This didn’t get put together until last night. It’s been a frustrating process, but worthwhile.”
Longtime library board watchdog John Berry, who lives in Southdowns, one of the neighborhoods adjacent to Rouzan, said the newest agreement was another delay in a project that has been allowed to go on for too long.
“We have had many deadlines over the last seven years,” he said. “We are still in limbo.”
Berry said his biggest problem with the development was the traffic that would clog Perkins Road even further and also affect the side streets in Southdowns.
“Perkins is already chock-a-block,” he said. “Where is that traffic going to go?”
Library Board of Control Member Jason Jacob said he understood frustrations with the project.
“I am as aggravated about his process as anybody,” he said. “I am disappointed in how long this process has taken.”
But, Jacob said, he felt the new agreement gave the city-parish protection in case of a Spinosa default.
“My overriding concern has been that taxpayers are protected if 2590 goes belly up,” he said. “If the city-parish feels that they are protected, I am satisfied.”
Woodard agreed, saying that the new agreement was the best way to protect taxpayers.
Also under the new agreement, Spinosa will build a connecting road from the library to Glasgow Avenue, he said. Sidewalks, curbs, parallel parking and gutters will also be built, but those can be completed during, rather than before, library construction, D’Aubin said.