A planned 250-unit apartment complex on the north side of Towne Center failed to get approval from the city-parish Planning Commission Monday night because of concerns about growing traffic on Jefferson Highway and in Goodwood and surrounding neighborhoods.
Earlier that day, Bethany World Prayer Center withdrew its application for a 1,050-seat church nearby after trying and failing to get a second entrance to the property. Residents and civic association members had previously come out in opposition and some commission members had made it clear one entrance wasn’t going to cut it.
Mickey Robertson, an engineer speaking on behalf of the proposed apartment complex known as The Preserve at Towne Centre, told the commission that developer Art Lancaster had agreed after talking to state Department of Transportation and Development officials to fund a median along that section of Jefferson Highway, to build sidewalks to encourage pedestrian use andto stub out to the adjacent property.
A stub out allows future development on an adjacent property to connect.
Dennis Vidrine of the Goodwood Property Owners Association, said that’s an empty gesture since there is no telling what will happen with that property. Vidrine said Thibodeaux, Keed and Audubon avenues already have too much pass-through traffic and qualify for traffic-calming measures now, though the city-parish can’t afford it.
“You add any of these projects … you’re looking at a major traffic impact on these streets and we’re scared to death,” he said. “We just think they’ve got to have a way to disperse that traffic.”
Robertson said all The Preserve can really do to address the concerns of residents is stub out to adjoining property.
“Then that’s something that has to be taken up when that property comes up for development,” he said.
That property, however, is the site of Phil Witter’s planned Cedar Lodge Apartments, a 315-unit complex with 56,000 square feet of commercial space.
Witter, who has deferred Cedar Lodge until the commission’s October meeting, was there Monday to tell the commission what he told it when Bethany said it was going to try to connect through adjacent properties, including Towne Center.
“There will be no connection through Towne Center to Cedar Lodge,” he said.
Witter said the existing Reserve, Millennium and Enclave developments are all gated and Cedar Lodge will be as well. He said connecting with The Preserve would compromise that security and create “insurance issues” as well.
Witter said he felt the issue should at least be deferred pending further study of development and traffic in the area.
Pat Murphy, who opposes The Preserve development, urged the commission to “be conservative and think carefully” before acting.
“It would definitely impact the daily lives of those who treasure this old section of town that is Old Goodwood,” Murphy said
Paul Higgins, who lives on Seven Oaks, “Essen Lane took 15 years to get to where it’s at.”
A vote to defer the issue until October and one to deny it outright each failed to get five votes, so the issue will go before the Metro Council on Wednesday as a denial. Commissioners John Price and James Gilmore were absent.
In other business, plans for The Pelican House Tap Room and Whiskey Bar in the former Romano’s Macaroni Grill location will go to the council as a denial after failing to get five votes.
Commissioners Darius Bonton, Laurie Marien, Sarah Holliday-James and Martha Jane Tassin voted in favor, while commissioners Tara Wicker and Audrey Nabors Jackson voted against. Commissioner W.T. Winfield had left the meeting by that point.
Nabors Jackson votes against all projects involving liquor and Wicker said she thought a designation that requires most of an establishment’s revenue come from food sales was more appropriate.
Also, the commission approved plans for an arcade, laser tag facility, bar and restaurant in the former Super Fresh grocery store at 4530 S. Sherwood Forest Boulevard. The vote was 5-1, with Nabors Jackson voting against.
Ryan Curtis, Marlon Moore and Collis Temple III will spend about $2 million converting the former grocery store into Quarters, which will open in October, Curtis said.
Also, Lipsey’s Wholesale Firearms was unanimously granted approval to put a new location on Exchequer Drive at Rieger Road. The building would replace the existing location down the street and would include 46,539 square feet of warehouse and 30,311 square feet of office space.