Megasite near Vinton on the table

Rezoning request will go before parish board on June 19

The striped area above is the proposed location of a Megasite between Vinton and Sulphur. 

Special to the American Press

Using more than 10,000 acres of property near Vinton for a mega site that could house various light-industrial development, including manufacturing and distribution plants, could benefit the Southwest Louisiana community over the next several decades, area developers said Monday.

However, one crucial step remains — getting approval from Calcasieu Parish officials to have the property rezoned from agricultural to light industrial. The parish Planning and Zoning Board will consider the request at 5:30 p.m. June 19 at the parish government building, 1015 Pithon St. It then goes before the full Police Jury on June 21.

Mark McMurry and Matt Redd, two of project’s three-member development team, discussed the proposal with the American Press editorial board. The property lies south and north of Interstate 10 and, if approved, would be “one of the biggest sites on the entire Gulf or east coast,” McMurry said.

Redd said Calcasieu Parish doesn’t have much property left for light- or heavy-industrial development.

“It would get us in a game that we’re not in,” Redd said. “It could potentially bring a whole new industry to our area.”

Property that is zoned light industrial allows for facilities like processing plants, laboratories and transit vehicle storage and servicing.

“It’s generally not going to be your smokestacks, your things that right now occupy the industrial complex in West Calcasieu,” McMurry said.

Not every resident in the surrounding area supports a project of this size. The development team met with more than 100 residents last week to discuss the mega site, hear any concerns and dispel any rumors.

“I understand (the concerns),” McMurry said. “A home is the most expensive thing you’re ever going to buy in your lifetime, and if it’s threatened by (development), it’s unnerving.”

This isn’t the first time property in the Vinton area has been the target of development. Two years ago, a proposal to rezone more than 500 acres south of I-10 from agricultural to heavy industrial-restricted to house a solid-waste sanitary landfill and industrial solid-waste site went nowhere. Several residents spoke out against the landfill, saying it would hurt quality of life and impact tourism.

McMurry said a solid-waste landfill “would be detrimental to what we really want to accomplish here.”

Most of the land is owned by the Lawton family and the H.C. Drew Estate. While the Lawton brothers, Bill and Jack, spent most of their life in ranching and farming, McMurry said their heirs have a different vision for the property.

“They want to do something that I think has legacy attached to it — something that would be really good for the community for generations to come,” he said.

Developing a mega site takes time, McMurry said. Should the rezoning be approved, McMurry said they will try to have portions of the property certified by the state Department of Economic Development, making them shovel-ready for any potential companies looking to locate there.

“It’s kind of hurry up and wait,” he said of the development process.

The exact plans for the rezoning proposal are still being reviewed ahead of next week’s planning board meeting, McMurry said.

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