Board voted to end Rouzan agreement
“So let’s get an appraisal and see how far off we are from $2.5 million. Honestly, that tract, with its frontage near Perkins, looks like a much better location for the library anyway.” John delgado, councilman
The East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board’s vote Thursday to recommend the city-parish end an agreement to build a new library branch on donated land in the Rouzan development now puts the long-running controversy in the hands of the Metro Council.
But how the Metro Council will vote on the library’s recommendation to terminate the agreement with Rouzan developer J.T. “Tommy” Spinosa and how to do so legally is still unclear.
Leo D’Aubin, an assistant parish attorney representing the library board on the matter declined comment when asked on Friday how the Metro Council could legally end the deal.
“We are reviewing our options at this time, and we reserve comment on these questions for now,” D’Aubin said.
Rouzan spokeswoman Kelly Vastine also declined to comment Friday on the vote and what happens next.
The proposed library branch on the donated Rouzan land has been stalled by disputes over permits, traffic studies, infrastructure and who was responsible for each step in the construction process.
Spinosa donated the land to the city-parish in 2010. Under his cooperative-endeavor agreement with the city-parish, the land would be returned to the developer if another site is selected for the library.
The library board voted Thursday to end the agreement with Spinosa and move on just after finding out that an alternate branch site library officials were pursuing at the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center would not be available.
Research center officials decided they did not want a library on the center’s property.
The Rouzan mixed-use development, just off Perkins Road near College Drive, is in the district represented by Metro Councilman John Delgado.
Delgado said Friday he’s a bit uneasy about terminating the city-parish’s cooperative endeavor agreement with Spinosa without investigating further a nearby tract of land Spinosa has for sale that has frontage near Perkins Road.
Spinosa’s asking price for the tract has been $2.5 million.
But Delgado said the government can’t buy land for more than the appraised value.
“So let’s get an appraisal and see how far off we are from $2.5 million. Honestly, that tract, with its frontage near Perkins, looks like a much better location for the library anyway,” Delgado said.
Spinosa’s $2.5 million tract has been a lightning rod for some library board members who have said they have no interest in spending taxpayer money on land nearby the donated land at Rouzan.
Metro Council member Buddy Amoroso said he doesn’t feel comfortable approving the library board’s recommendation to terminate the existing agreement until he hears more details from the library board.
“I’m extremely concerned with moving forward when (the library board) have no Plan B,” Amoroso said.
Amoroso also said he doesn’t think the public would approve of the city-parish spending money on Spinosa’s $2.5 million tract.
“I want to know what the board’s long term plans are. If there’s no plan in place, I will want to defer the matter and stay with what we have for now,” Amoroso said.
Metro Councilman Ryan Heck said the library board has dealt with the Rouzan matter longer than anyone and he’s comfortable with the board’s recommendation to scrap the agreement.
“I trust their recommendation. They have a lot of influence on my vote,” Heck said.
Southdowns resident John Berry, a longtime critic of Rouzan and Spinosa because of the traffic impact the development will have on his neighborhood, said he has been calling for years for the library board to end its relationship with Spinosa.
“The library board is like a flock of sheep being led around by Spinosa for all these years,” Berry said. “They should have cut ties a long time ago and never gotten involved with him.”