Covington is growing and increasing demand for affordable housing played a role in the City Council’s unanimous annexation Tuesday of a 18-acre tract on the city’s north side.
The tract, which is slated to be developed into commercial space and a 288-unit apartment complex, stretches from U.S. 190 Bypass to Regina Coeli Drive just west of La. 25.
The planned development — called Reagan Crossing — will have a density of about 18 units per acre, significantly higher than the city’s highest permitted density, which is 12.4 units per acre, according to Nahketah Bagby, the city’s planning director. But because the developers have promised to retain a certain amount of greenspace — more than half of the residential acres will be green space, including 3.22 acres of forested wetlands — the city could permit the higher density, she said.
The promise of the greenspace did little to mollify John Thacker, a resident who lives on Regina Coeli Drive.
“I don’t want to live in Metairie. I want to live in Covington,” he told the council Tuesday night. “There are some here who think we need 500 or 1,000 apartment units in the city, but they don’t all need to go on Regina Coeli Drive.”
Thacker said the increased density would also create traffic problems, which councilmembers acknowledged.
Paul Maryonne, who represented Reagan Crossing LLC, the project’s developer, said St. Tammany Parish officials had assured him that widening La. 25 in that area had been planned and they expected to begin construction next year. He also said the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development was collecting data on improving the bridge over the Bogue Falaya River on La. 25, a major traffic bottleneck near the planned development.
Mayronne said developers were also willing to work with the city on other infrastructure concerns, including increasing sewer capacity in the area if tests showed that Reagan Crossing would overburden current facilities.
Another resident, Clarence Romage, said he was concerned about the drainage in the area.
“We need a massive drainage study,” Mayronne said. More and more water is gathering near the developments, he said.
Councilman Lee Alexius said that before the project could be approved, the developers would have to come to the city with a viable drainage plan.
According to a plan of the development, almost three acres adjacent to the U.S. 190 Bypass would be commercial in nature, divided into two sections on either side of a central driveway into the apartment complex.
The 288-unit apartment complex is planned for the remaining 15 acres of property. It would include 12 apartment buildings with one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.
Mayronne said the complex was designed to keep the apartment buildings as far from the property lines as possible — in some cases more than 100 feet.
Mayronne said the apartment complex would be built first — groundbreaking could come in as little as 60 days. It would likely take nine months to a year to build, he said.
He could not say what the commercial properties would be — that would be market dictated, he said.
Several members of the council complimented Mayronne on the platns.
Alexius called it a “first class” development.
Councilman Mark Wright, in whose district the development will lie, said it was a needed development.
“We need some multifamily, and there’s not a lot of better places for it,” he said.
Covington Mayor Mike Cooper told the council that while he was convinced the development would benefit the city, he could not provide a dollar estimate of how much tax revenue the city would reap from it.