By DAVID FOLSE II
Tammany West news
ABITA SPRINGS — The Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany (CCST) have a message for the Parish Council when it comes to passing the Economic Development Districts (EDD).
“We are not against it, we just want you to tap the brakes a little bit and what’s the rush?”
At the most recent Parish Council meeting, all but one of the proposed Economic Development Districts (EDD) was passed.
Rick Franzo, president of the Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, believes the Parish Council is rushing to get something passed and his organization wants to know what the rush is all about.
“We are not looking at anything specific and we don’t necessarily have a problem with the concept of an Economic Development District,” Franzo said. “We do we have a problem with the transparency of the process. That was more than evident in the last Parish Council meeting. There were council members themselves that said they are still trying to get their minds wrapped around it.”
That’s what I told Parish President Pat Brister. I told her if the council doesn’t get it, how are citizens suppose to get it?”
Adamant that he and the rest of the CCST are not whole-heartedly opposed to the passing of the Economic Development Districts, Franzo said he just wants more time to discuss the projects so everyone can have a better understanding of it.
“Our message was simple,” he said. “We said ‘why don’t you just take one more month instead of rushing it down everybody’s throats and get more information out? Present some type of business plan of what you want to do in these districts. That’s all we are looking for.”
Established through a council vote, EDD’s are areas of land in the parish that have specific design plans—such as a shopping center—and if an EDD is approved for the developer, special sales taxes just for that district can be passed to generate the revenue to pay roads and infrastructure in the hopes of luring business to settle there.
The Parish Council voted to establish a pair of economic development districts at two I-12 interchanges in addition to one at the Slidell Airport.
The two lone districts that failed to pass their EDD during the meeting were located in Lacombe and that was simply delayed.
“All the EDD’s were passed except the Lacombe district,” Franzo said. “The councilman of that district, Jacob Groby, asked that his EDD not be voted on and that he would have a month to get a meeting together and present the ideas to the public as a whole in his district. We agree with him. What’s the rush? What is 30 days more? It will allow the public to become more informed.
“The other big thing is that we want more tangible information. What studies have been done to prove this will be the right thing for the parish? We still don’t have any documentation that will prove this is the right thing to do. Maybe it is, I would just rather be safe than sorry and not rush into it for the wrong reasons.”
Franzo said that his biggest concern and what should be the biggest concern of the citizens of the parish is what impact this could have on their own wallets.
“My biggest fear is that we agree to these districts and then all of a sudden we find out that they are cutting tax breaks for developers,” Franzo said. “And they are financing these districts through tax dollars. That’s a big problem we have. The other big thing is we don’t understand if it will have a financial impact on businesses outside of the EDD’s. We don’t know what kind of impact it is going to have whether it be positive or negative. They have not presented a real business plan.”