Land sale negotiations Oked by council

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 18, 1999

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / December 18, 1999

LAPLACE – After receiving an appraisal on the 1.5 acres of land next to thePercy Hebert Building, the St. John Parish Council has authorized theparish administration to start negotiating for its sale.

Councilman Joel McTopy brought up the matter at Tuesday’s council meeting when he announced the appraisal for the land was $1.25 milliondollars, $250,000 more than what Newton Old Acres McDonald had offered several months ago. If the parish sold the parcel of land it would be usedfor a Walgreen’s pharmacy.

McTopy was glad the land had been appraised. In the original deal, NewtonOld Acres McDonald wanted to swap the land for the old car dealership farther down Airline Highway.

“If we had done that,” McTopy said, “it would have been the most expensive parcel of land ever traded in St. John Parish history.”McTopy had several reasons as to why the parish should sell the land.

First, he said, the parish could use the money to help defray costs of a new animal shelter and the new sewerage system.

He said he was also troubled by the fact he had heard talk that if Walgreen’s did not get the land next to the Percy Hebert Building, it would buy into the shopping mall right next door and force The Finish Line, an off-track betting and video poker business, to close.

“This would mean a loss of $200,000 to the parish,” said McTopy.

The taxes from off-track betting and video poker go straight into the recreation department.

Council member Steve Thornton said he had heard the same thing and added The Finish Line didn’t have a place to re-locate in case Walgreen’s bought the mall.

“We can’t afford to lose that money,” said Thornton.

Kevin Duhon said the next council should decide how the next money is spent, and he moved that the council authorize the administration to sell the property.

“It’s time to put this baby to rest,” Duhon said.

But Ranney Wilson was not convinced the sale would do the parish any good.

“I don’t like to be forced into such decisions,” he said. “I’m not concernedabout the OTB at all. We have three truck stops being built right now thatwill have a total of 50 video poker machines. I don’t like to be threatened.”When contacted, the manager of The Finish Line said he could not say what was going to happen because he didn’t know anything himself.

Council President Duaine Duffy said he thinks patience should be the catchword in the discussion.

“Does the decision need to be made tonight, or in January?” he asked fellow council members. “I’m not in favor of selling the land right now.The value of the land might increase.”Duffy and Chief Administrative Officer Pat McTopy reminded the council that to subdivide and sell the land an ordinance was needed and not a motion.

By a vote of 5-4, the council authorized the parish administration to start negotiating a sale and to make up ordinances to subdivide and sell the land. Members also OKed a survey of the acreage. McTopy, Duffy, Wilsonand Perry Bailey voted against the motion.

In other council business:Dale Madere will be recommended to the State Supreme Court to fill the unexpired term of Eliana DeFrancesch District 4 Justice of the Peace.

DeFrancesch recently won the Clerk of Court race. Madere, who was aJustice of the Peace from 1974-1978, said he knows the duties and is experienced.

According to federal law, Madere cannot run for the office once the term has expired.

State Rep. Bobby Faucheux and State Sen. Ron Landry presented twogrants to the parish for improvements on area parks. One grant for$50,000 goes to Woodland Park, and another $55,000 goes to help build a park on the west bank.

Faucheux told the council that local state legislators have managed to get $587,000 in grant money for the area in the last four years.

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