Annexing land, improving utilities helps city get developers' attention

By By Eric Cormier / American Press

Last month the Lake Charles City Council annexed a piece of land ahead of work on Morganfield Development, which will be off

East McNeese Street.

In coming weeks, the City Council will next decide if a tax incremental financing district can be initiated on the property.

Money generated by that tax (possibly one cent) will be used to finance infrastructure improvements on the property.

District F City Councilman Dana Jackson

has verbally supported the project, which is being spearheaded by River

Ranch Development

Co., based in Lafayette.

“There will be a commercial site there. As far as I know this type of financing hasn’t been done before by the city, not to

mention they won’t be able to draw taxes outside of the taxing district,” Jackson said.

City Council members voted to annex 277 acres of land for the project. River Ranch officials intend to build 1,000 residential

units and have 500,000 square feet of retail space. The project was given a boost after the East Prien Lake Road extension

project was completed.

When the road was opened in October, officials with City Hall and the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury touted it as a potential

catalyst for economic development between La. 14 and La. 397.

The city built new road over a one-mile stretch and installed water and sewer lines. Parish officials completed a section

of road that included upgrades.

Mister Edwards, head of the city’s public works department, said construction has aided Morganfield.

“It makes the project possible. Without it, the developer would not have access to public utilities,” he said. “All of this

was done to stimulate development.”

In what is expected to be a robust

housing market due to industrial growth in the region, city officials

and the developer

felt it was prudent to provide access to public utilities instead

of having potential homeowners paying cost for their homes

and servicing water wells.

“I think this is a very good project,” Jackson said of Morganfield. “These are going to be homes people can afford.”

Jackson said the project could grow and eventually lead to more annexation since the overall property amount includes 2,000

acres.

“This could be a long-term project. The property owner is in it for the long haul,” Jackson said.

In October 2012, City Administrator John Cardone told the American Press that annexation in the southeast portion of town made sense.

Annexing and improving city utilities to get the attention of developers has been a part of the city’s growth philosophy.

“A plan was created in 2007. The idea

that grew from that was we understand it is costly to retrofit areas

where people live

but don’t have infrastructure. So it makes sense to annex property

where water and sewer doesn’t exist since it would be cheaper,”

Cardone told the newspaper then.

“They would be able to build at a reasonable cost because water and sewer lines would already exist and all they would have

to do is connect to them.”

The city is going to charge Morganfield a fee for some infrastructure improvement.