Tensions high with north Lake Charles zoning debate

Tensions were high in the City Council chambers on Monday night as several members of the north Lake Charles community and business leaders spoke either for or against a request to rezone 180 acres of property for industrial use.

The Enterprise Boulevard Coalition wants to rezone property between North Enterprise Boulevard and the south loop of the Calcasieu River from light manufacturing and mixed use to an industrial classification. The discussion at the Planning and Zoning Board meeting lasted nearly four hours, with a dozen people speaking in favor of the rezoning, and 30 speaking against it. The board at one point considered a postponement before ultimately voting 3-1 to reject the request. One board member abstained from voting.

The City Council will take final action on the item at 5:30 p.m. April 1 in the council chambers, 326 Pujo St.

Board member Alvin Joseph voted against the request. He said he grew up in north Lake Charles and has family that lives in the area today.

“I pass by that area all the time, dodging this and dodging that in the street,” he said. “I’m tired of seeing what I’ve been seeing.”

Fitzgerald Darbone, president of the African American Chamber of Commerce, said rezoning the area would provide job opportunities in north Lake Charles.

“As a military strategic analyst, I started looking over the area itself,” he said. “I took to the river — they had access to the river, the railway and the roads. When you have that access of transportation, you get an opportunity to increase product. When you start increasing product, you need more people to work in this particular field.”

Prior to the meeting, the board received considerable correspondence against the proposal, as well as some in favor the zoning change.

Chester J. Jones, founder and chairman of the board of the African American Chamber of Commerce, came and spoke immediately afterwards, saying “I knew nothing about this and did not authorize anybody to come and use my name.”

Hunter Lundy, the attorney for the group of applicants, spoke on behalf of rezoning the area to industrial.

“The only way this works is if this area goes to industrial,” pressed Lundy, “They’re not asking to change anything … the money generated from the increased tax revenue will go to whatever the African American Chamber of Commerce wants or the city of Lake Charles wants.”

Lundy suggested a sunset clause for the property.

“If they don’t do what they say, it’ll go right back to what it is now,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

John Nash spoke in favor of the rezoning, saying a vision is needed for success.

“You’ll perish without vision,” he said. “And not everybody has vision; they can’t see it or recognize when they see it.”

Nash spoke about his several properties in Lake Charles, including gas stations, Nash Properties LLC, and a diner. He said rezoning the property “can create a cash flow for north Lake Charles.”

“The people in north Lake Charles talk … about the funds going to south Lake Charles,” he said. “We can create opportunities for our young people. You’re poor because you make yourself poor. This is an opportunity.”

District A City Council member Mary Morris said a vision, while “slow coming,” already exists for the area. She said she is willing to compromise on a light manufacturing zoning classification.

“Right now, the violations are happening,” she said. “Under light manufacturing, it has everything that they talked about: warehouses, but no industrial. We want no more expansion of industrial.”

Residents spoke up about existing pollution and the devastation that could occur from expansion, along with the fact that north Lake Charles is a mainly residential area already being impacted by loud noises and other environmental factors.

“Why is north Lake Charles not thriving? I have the answer right here,” said Marshall Simien. “One of the primary problems is that the industrial land exists directly adjacent to residential land. This is a small area they’re trying to rezone, but this area right next to that is residential. People live there.”

Mike Smith, a resident of north Lake Charles, said the community in the area deserves a better quality of life.

“I try to represent the actual people … in the area,” he said. “We can’t leave things the way they are, but to change to industrial would devastate the area.”

Joseph, David Berryhill and Frank Pryce voted against the rezoning, while Gus Schram III voted in favor of it. Fayaz Khan abstained from voting.

The City Council will take final action on the item at 5:30 p.m. April 1 in the council chambers, 326 Pujo St. 

SportsPlus

Local News

Firefighter training now available for Vernon students

Local News

A rainy-day groundbreaking for the new McNeese Student Union building

Local News

Harris tells Wisconsin crowd election will be ‘a choice between freedom and chaos’

Crime

7/22: Calcasieu Parish Sheriff announces arrest list

life

Back-to-school movie night, supply drive set for Friday

Local News

Johnson on Secret Service director’s resignation: ‘Happy to see she heeded our calls’

Local News

Secret Service director resigns after assassination attempt on Donald Trump

McNeese Sports

Things to watch at Cowboy camp

Local News

Johnson, Jeffries announce bipartisan task force to investigate assassination attempt

Local News

Louisiana Democrats thank Biden, support Harris as new nominee

Local News

Construction on 46-unit Mid-City Lofts begins next month

Local News

Daily showers, thunderstorms expected this week

Crime

7/22: Calcasieu Parish Sheriff announces arrest list

McNeese Sports

New-look Cowboys picked sixth

Local News

Harris praises Biden’s ‘unmatched’ legacy, looks to lock up the Democratic nomination

Business

Tellurian to be acquired by Woodside Energy Group in $900M all-cash payment

Crime

LSU cornerback arrested on accusation of video voyeurism, authorities say

Local News

Secret Service acknowledges denying some past requests by Trump’s campaign for tighter security

Local News

Biden wants to pass baton to Kamala Harris

Local News

BREAKING: Biden drops out of race

Local News

Secret Service chief noted ‘zero fail mission,’ facing calls to resign

Local News

Students explore possible careers in athletic training

Jim Beam

Jim Beam column:Constitution plan resurrected

high-school Sports

New concession stand added to plans for football stadium