Steady growth in LaPlace due in coming years

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 16, 2005



LAPLACE – New home starts in St. John Parish were the lowest in the past six years during 2004, but don’t let that make you think the building growth here is taking a turn down.

Residential building starts for 2004 were 217 in St. John Parish, according to Director of Planning and Zoning Adrienne Labat.

It was the lowest total since there were 192 in 1998, after totals over 200 from 1999 to 2003. The biggest year was 2002 with 280.

But Labat said she expects 2005 to really begin a move up in St. John with four subdivisions beginning to open up, and several more subdivisions on the horizon.

“I wouldn’t say the growth here is exploding, but I think we are going to stay at a steady pace for a number of years with several subdivisions getting going,” she said. “We have three new areas being developed, along with one subdivision on the west bank. And within the year we will have six to eight subdivisions all having new homes built.”

Labat said that the need for new homes remains strong in the area, but with the new subdivisions coming on line, it should help meet the need in the parish.

The biggest concern from the perspective of the parish is that the growth continues to be managed in a way that keeps most existing homeowners happy.

“I think we’ve done well handling the growth, especially from our Public Works Department. We’ve not had a problem with flooding and we have kept the canals cleaned for drainage very well in the last four to five years in particular,” she noted.

Currently in the works or already underway and getting closer to offering home sites for new construction are four area subdivisions.

Landcraft, a major developer in the area, will be opening Phase I and II of Summerlin Lakes, with approximately 280 homes in LaPlace. Developer Joey Scontrino said that they just began selling lots last week, with homes starting at $130,000.

Two developments in Reserve will offer over 200 more home sites as Scarlet Oaks will have larger lots near the half-acre size, while Cole’s Landing will have about 120 home sites in Phase I, in the price range near $130,000 per home. That is another Landcraft development.

On the West Bank, Sugarland Estates in Wallace has 50 lots in Phase I, with an eventual plan to offer as many as 400 home sites. Those lots are 70×150 feet.

Scontrino, a top developer in the area with Landcraft, has tracked the building progess in St. John for years and said that St. John has averaged 7 to 9 percent of the total Metropolitan home construction for years. He doesn’t see that changing.

“Unless something brings about serious job creation in St. John, we will continue to stay in the 7 to 9 percent range. I view St. John like a coal mine. You always produce something, and once in a while you find a diamond. But the production mostly remains steady,” he explained.

“I don’t see anything to indicate St. John will explode like St. Tammany, but I think 2005 will continue with the same percentage of Metropolitan growth we have had for years,” he said.

Prudential Branch Manager Sandy Sandusky sees the “vibrant market” continuing in St. John Parish, although his concern is the fact that land is getting scarce for more homes.

“In LaPlace there is not a lot more land available right now,” he said. “And I just don’t think the Reserve area is as desireable as LaPlace for people moving out to this area. But I still think the market will remain very good in this area for 2005, as long as interest rates remain close to where they are.”

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Labat says the growth in the River Region shows signs of following what has happened in St. Tammany Parish, which has been the fastest growing parish in the state for over a decade. But here, it is still a long way from the numbers being put up on the north side of the lake.

The three-parish area for the River Region had approximately 600 new home starts in 2004, however St. Tammany set an all-time record with over 3,000 residential building permits.

“I’ve tried to travel on Highway 90 in St. Tammany Parish and it is ridiculous,” she said. “So I’m actually glad we are not dealing with that kind of growth. We are trying to really keep a handle on the infrastructure here and manage the growth as well as we can.”

Labat said there are other developments in St. John Parish which are on the drawing board and she said there could be as many as eight subdivisions underway by the end of the year.

She added that the parish is trying to restart a long-range master planning effort that began with UNO in 2000, to make sure the growth is managed properly.

“We started in 2000 with the plan, but we didn’t have the money to continue it in recent years. But now the Parish Council is again talking about doing long range planning and we hope to get that going again,” she added.