The city of Leesville held a public meeting Monday night to discuss its desire to annex Entrance Road into city limits.

Nearly 90 percent of business owners were present for the meeting, and all willingly added their names to a list of those in favor of the move that would allow businesses and restaurants access to city water and sewer services.

“They are the reason this even came up for discussion,” Mayor Rick Allen told the American Press.

“These business owners came to me and to the city asking us to help them with a problem that’s been ongoing for decades.”

James McKee is the owner of Star Pawn Gun and Archery, a popular business on Entrance Road for the past 35 years. In all those years, McKee said he has seen many new businesses open their doors only to shutter them soon after because of the difficulties in gaining sewer access.

McKee’s shop is located on property large enough to have its own sewer access, but he said most other lots are not so lucky. One hotel located just a few miles from McKee’s Star Pawn was forced to pay nearly $35,000 in sewer rehab costs; developer and impossible for a small business owner.

“It’s really sad to see and it hurts the community. If the city annexed Entrance Road, I really believe we would see a lot of growth right here and that would be a good thing for everyone involved,” McKee said.

“You’d have new businesses and new places to eat and shop, but then also the existing businesses would see property values increase as well.”

Entrance Road serves as the only direct access route to Fort Polk’s main gate, and by some estimates experiences some of the heaviest daily traffic in all of Vernon Parish.

Annexation would also mean a property tax increase, and some property owners have expressed their reluctancy to agree to higher taxes.

Others have expressed their concerns with being forced to comply with city ordinances. For that, Allen said the city has put a solution in place with the creation of an A-11 district.

“With A-11, we are able to determine conformance to the city property restrictions based upon the size of the property itself,” Allen said.

By having each property reviewed and approved, Allen said owners of property located near Entrance Road would continue to enjoy their hunting and burning privileges just as they did before.

In order to proceed with seeking the annexation, the city of Leesville must receive approval from 51 percent of property owners. Allen said he is determined to find an agreement with all parties involved to get to that number.

In 2017, the city annexed a portion of La. 28 to allow for water and sewer access to that area in hopes of economic growth. Since that time, multiple businesses and restaurants have constructed new locations along the route, with more construction underway for others. Property values in that area have since tripled.

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