After nearly an hour of discussion and despite opposition from some residents, Calcasieu Parish police jurors voted 10-3 on Thursday to rezone property in Moss Bluff for developers to build a convenience store.
The vote rezones with stipulations 1.43 acres of land at 1130 North Perkins Ferry Road from single family residential to light commercial. The parish Planning and Zoning Board voted 5-3 Tuesday to grant the rezoning.
District 11 Police Juror Sandra Treme said the largely residential area doesn't need another convenience store.
"I don't feel like this is an appropriate place for this to be," she said. "This is for the people, and that's who I stand for."
Tom Gayle, who spoke for the applicant, ECO Enterprises, said being close to homes and subdivisions makes a convenience store an attractive development.
"The market indicates there is a need for one," he said. "This is part of a commercial corridor ... according to (the parish) ordinance and statute."
"Maybe we were wrong," Treme responded.
The Police Jury in 2014 rezoned the property to single family residential to allow for a subdivision. However, that project was never developed. Before that, the property was zoned light commercial, dating back to the early 1980s.
Kathryn Witherwax said she has lived in her home on East Liechty Road since 1976. She said Moss Bluff already has plenty of convenience stores.
"We don't need a gas station in our back yard," Witherwax said. "There are families living here."
Liz Long said there are unresolved drainage issues, along with traffic problems on North Perkins Ferry Road.
Jared Martin said a gas station would not work in the area.
"I understand growth and development, and that's something you can't deny," he said. "I don't know if a convenience store is the right fit for this. Maybe another day care, beauty salon (or) strip mall."
Police Jury President Kevin White said the panel only rezones property, while the market determines which businesses are developed. District 12 Police Juror Judd Bares agreed, saying the land owner has "to be able to do something with his property."
District 15 Police Juror Les Farnum said the property should stay consistent with the subdivisions already there.
"That's the trouble I have with this (rezoning)," he said.
Voting for the rezoning were Brian Abshire, Francis Andrepont, Bares, Guy Brame, Calvin Collins, Kevin Guidry, Tony Guillory, Chris Landry, Shalon Latour and Shelly Mayo. Treme, Farnum and Hal McMillin opposed it. District 6 Police Juror Dennis Scott abstained from voting.
An earlier motion by Treme to deny the rezoning failed with a 6-7 vote.
Police jurors later approved a 10-year, 93 percent industrial property tax exemption for Buffalo LLC (Steel Dynamics Enterprise Inc.) to locate an estimated $1.73 billion steel manufacturing facility along La. 27 near DeQuincy. The company is based out of Fort Wayne, Ind.
The company's board of directors in November 2018 authorized construction of an "electric-arc-furnace flat roll steel mill" in the U.S., according to its website. The project is expected to generate 950 construction jobs and 592 permanent facility jobs, with an annual payroll of $45 million. It is expected to generate $170 million in property taxes over 20 years.
The Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry approved the ITEP for Buffalo LLC on June 28, sending it to the Police Jury, School Board and Sheriff for approval. The School Board has already approved the exemption.
Bares said he supports the project, but wants a way for people to track the money flow.
"I just wish we had numbers so the people who don't feel good about it could possibly feel good about it," he said. "There's just so many unknowns."
Andrepont said the projected new jobs and project's scope "speaks for itself."
Buffalo is also considering Sinton, Texas, a city nearly 30 miles north of Corpus Christi, as a location for the steel mill.
"There's a lot of people in Corpus Christi that are on their knees praying tonight that you're not going to vote for (the ITEP) because they want it," Landry told Bares. "Believe me, they're making deals and are going to give them all kinds of incentives to try and locate there. If I'm that company, I'm going to go where I get the best deal."
Scott said the project helps diversify the parish outside of the petrochemical plants and casinos.
"We need more manufacturing facilities in this parish," he said.