POSTED: Saturday, June 22, 2013 - 7:00am
UPDATED: Saturday, June 22, 2013 - 7:04am
Denham Springs, LA (NBC33) — Gov. Bobby Jindal dealt another in the long list of setbacks for the Juban Crossing project. He vetoed SB 50 on Friday, which provided for up to $45 million in bonds for infrastructure and construction costs.
"I think 130,000 people in this parish are disappointed," said Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks.
SB 50, authored by Sen. Dale Erdey (R-Livingston), passed the state House and Senate with nearly total support, as a similar version did last year. And just like last year, Governor Jindal refused to sign it.
"I think the thing that's so disappointing is not once, but twice now, basically the entire delegation, our legislative body, has supported this bill," Ricks stated.
There used to be signs near the Juban exit from I-12 saying Juban Crossing would open in Fall 2012 as an upscale retail development. Those signs are down now, with no telling when construction will begin.
"We remain committed to fulfilling our original vision of this one-of-a-kind retail and lifestyle destination," Stephen Keller, the lead developer on the project, said in a statement. "We currently have more than 300,000 square feet of national retail tenants waiting to come on board. We continue to work every day to move forward on the project to bring it to a reality."
Ricks said he plans to speak with Keller next week about the future of the project.
"We hope the developer perseveres," he said. "He's certainly been through a lot with this development over several years."
Ricks believes Keller and Creekstone Developers have enough money to build a mall on the site, just not the one they had promised. Ricks would prefer to wait.
"We want to see the right mall, certainly," he said. "We had our hopes up. We saw the drawings and all the major development that was going to come around this thing."
Gov. Jindal said in his veto that the developers should not have gone through the legislature to ask for cash.
"If the Louisiana Department of Economic Development (LED) determines that providing a State match for a project will result in a positive return on investment to the State, LED may submit the project for approval to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget," he wrote.
Ricks thought that was poor reasoning to veto the bill.
"Again, you're back to that one individual, (LED Secretary) Stephen Moret, who wants to keep the money over in East Baton Rouge," Ricks claimed. "So you still gotta get past some of those hurdles. I think the governor's reaching for straws by saying that. Now, is that a possibility? Yeah, maybe so."
Ricks added that he felt betrayed by Gov. Jindal, especially since he often proclaims a desire t make Louisiana the most business-friendly state in the union.
"I know Baton Rouge was concerned (about losing retail business to Juban Crossing). And it would've pulled, maybe some from Baton Rouge," Ricks conceded. "But overall, the state would've gained significantly. What are we getting off this piece of property now? Zilch!"
Ricks noted that Juban Crossing would create 2,500 permanent jobs if it is ever built, and would attract other business to move to Denham Springs.
"With the stroke of a pen, the governor could've helped Livingston Parish," Ricks said. "Instead, with the stroke of a pen, he turned his back on Livingston Parish."