Livingston Parish Council votes against further tax incentive for Juban Crossing project

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Louisiana Politics

POSTED: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 4:00am

UPDATED: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 10:44am

Juban Crossing has gotten a lot of money from Livingston Parish, but it will not get any more.

The parish council voted down a plan Thursday that would have given back a larger amount of the future sales tax revenue created by the mixed-use project to be used for infrastructure.

Councilman Ricky Goff gave a 10-minute presentation outlining why he supported the proposal. He claimed that it would improve the parish's image, provide 2,500 new jobs, and keep residents from leaving the parish to go shopping. He also claimed that giving more money to the project would yield a larger return in the future.

"I did not put my name on the ballot to not come here and do some good for this parish," he said. "I am perfectly willing to stand on the line and say, 'this is what I believe in.'"

The council attempted to vote on the same proposal two weeks prior, but nobody seconded the motion to approve it. Some members of the audience wondered if the council was legally able to hold another public hearing on the same ordinance.

"LPO 13-28 was not tabled or set for another date," Taryn Creekbaum told the council. "It was deemed dead."

But the council's attorney, Christopher Moody, said state law was unclear as to the proper procedure. He noted that it was the council members' decision to revive the ordinance, and he stated that, if approved, the procedure could be challenged in court.

Supporters of the ordinance hailed it as a way to turn an empty piece of land into a sign of the future strength of the parish.

"This is an opportunity, in my mind, to be able to say, 'wow, look what we've done in Livingston Parish,'" said Julie Dyason-Norris.

They mentioned a need to give the people of Livingston Parish a great place to shop close to home, with a movie theater, grocery stores, retail, and 2,500 permanent jobs. They also pointed out that the property taxes paid by the complex would benefit everyone.

"When those taxes are paid," Dyason-Norris stated, "my taxes that I pay every year will go down."

But they could not convince the public why they needed to hand over a larger portion of the sales taxes. Another developer claimed that in a poll of more than 3,000 residents this past week, nearly 70 percent said they were against giving more tax revenue to the project.

And the council chose to answer the calls from people who felt ignored earlier in the process.

Stephen Keller, the lead developer of Juban Crossing, has said he will build the complex regardless of how much money Livingston Parish provides. But without the additional funds, he will have to reduce his budget, impacting the quality of shops that he can attract, leading to fewer customers and less value for the parish.

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