Labat proposes land swap deal

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 2, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / June 2, 1999

LAPLACE – A land swap deal proposed Tuesday by St. John Parish PresidentArnold Labat would centralize several government offices, provide new warehousing and storage space and help the Belle Terre traffic problems at Airline Highway.

At least, that’s according to Labat’s idea to trade a 1.5-acre cornerproperty near the Percy Hebert Building to the owners of the 7.5-acre sitewhich was formerly Southland Dodge.

The proposal was tabled by the Parish Council to a workshop planned Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The Parish Council would have to approve thetransaction.

Labat explained that the idea is to turn over $200,000 and that corner site, presently the site of the St. John Andouille Festival, to Newton OldAcre McDonald, LLC, represented locally by APC Realty. In exchange, a newfour-lane roadway would extend across from Belle Terre Boulevard south toward the Kansas City Southern tracks, narrowing to two lanes.

The old Southland Dodge site, across from St. John Memorial Gardens,would be converted to government offices and possibly include a gymnasium, public park and pavilion for the Andouille Festival or Trade Show.

The parish finance, public works, utilities and recreation departments would all relocate and centralize in the 35,000 square feet of buildings there. Labat told the Parish Council there is $430,000 in the conventioncenter bank account and $456,000 in the bank from the sale of parish- owned land near the St. John Airport.Labat said all parish permitting agencies would be located at the same place, allowing the public one-stop applications for permits. The formermechanic shop of the auto dealership could possibly house the Trade Show and also provide an indoor venue for festival activities.

The warehousing space would quadruple the parish’s present storage area, Labat continued. Finally, he said, the recreation department would have apermanent home with comfortable offices and plenty of public parking.

And the present parish finance office in the Percy Hebert Building would be taken over by the Detective Division of the St. John Sheriff’s Office,which would place it next to the sheriff’s Records Division and also save his department $20,000 in annual rent for the Detective Division’s present location.

The value of the corner lot near the Percy Hebert Building was set at $1.1million. Labat said a commercial building would locate at the site, but herefused to be more specific.

A partner in APC Realty, Carl Monica, likewise refused to specify the type of building which would locate there. “At this point, I can’t give it out,”he said.

Monica had only praise for Labat’s proposal, and added, “It’ll be a whole different outlook there. He laid out a real good plan, I think.”Monica emphasized he is not being paid a commission by the parish in the deal.

The intersection of Belle Terre Boulevard and Airline Highway is considered a particularly hazardous area, where accidents occur frequently.

However, the proposal didn’t meet with open arms all around. CouncilmanDuaine Duffy said, “I can’t support it for a couple of reasons; one, we shouldn’t sell or swap the property in front of the Percy Hebert Building and, two, without proper funding, how would we retrofit that old dealership?” He added this sort of proposal should have been done at the beginning of an administration, not at the end.

“I just think it’s making a really big mistake,” Duffy added. “It’s almostalways better to start fresh.”Monica commented, “Maybe some of them have different agendas. It’s anexcellent opportunity to go forward at a minimal cost.”He added, “It’s not important who thinks of it first, but will it serve the public?”

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