WAL-MART WOES: Wal-mart shopping center permit in the worksJan 26th, 2011 | By Michelle Provencher | Category: top story
Lots of information is circulating about the likelihood of a Wal-Mart being built in Plaquemines Parish, some of which is contradictory, and potentially misleading.
Residents were told that there were no final plans for the massive shopping center to be built in Belle Chasse, yet the permit application for construction has been submitted, and the property purchase agreement has been signed.
Though some Plaquemines Parish Council members may be working to deter development deemed harmful to the “quality of life” in the community, the plans for the shopping center have not been branded illegal, and progress on them has not ceased.
Councilman Keith Hinkley, District 2, informed people at a SpringWood Estates Homeowners Association meeting last week about his plans to prevent the shopping development, including the ordinances he brought to the table at the last Plaquemines Parish Council meeting.
“We’re not sitting on our heels,” said Hinkley to the crowd of people gathered at the Belle Chasse Auditorium for the public meeting.
The ordinances, if passed, would create a moratorium on commercial construction until Dec. 31, 2011 or the completion of the Master Plan, and prohibit the creation of new retail stores larger than 25,000 square feet within District 2 south of the Industrial Canal, District 3 and part of District 4 north of Russell Drive.
Nevada based Moretco, Inc. – a company under the developer, Jeffrey Moore of Realm Realty, headquartered in Houston, Texas – filed an application for a building and construction permit dated Jan. 10, three days before the ordinances were even introduced.
The document listed Moretco’s specific purpose is to create a “commercial development to include Wal-Mart, retail, business and restaurant uses.”
The complex will be 185,764 square feet, with about 115,000 square feet of it allotted to the Wal-Mart store. The estimated cost of the proposed construction is $18 million.
Though the Wal-Mart is more than four-times the maximum size allotted by Hinkley’s legislation, it may not be affected because it was submitted before the ordinances were enacted.
After learning about Moretco’s permit application, Hinkley said it has no bearing as he plans to retroactively extend the legislation back to Jan. 1.
For Hinkley’s second line of defense, he pointed to a zoning conflict that would prevent the shopping center’s construction: a small corner of the property, near Kenneth Drive, is classified as R-1C, or single family residential, while the other is zoned C-2, commercial.
“This development goes against some of our ordinances,” Hinkley said.
In a letter to Moore from the Plaquemines Parish Department of Permits, Planning and Zoning, it is stated, “Your proposed shopping center is to be located on the C-2 portion of the afore mentioned property, and would therefore satisfy the land use requirements as prescribed by the Plaquemines Parish Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.”
“What they’re proposing is comprised of two zoning classifications,” Hinkley said. “They’re trying to put their commercial development on residential zoning and that’s not right. Anything that services, accommodates or impedes on that has to be zoned commercial. Nowhere does it allow for retention or detention ponds.”
Kenneth Drive has also become a point of contention.
“Their proposal is to close off Kenneth Drive,” said Hinkley. “The first 150 feet of Kenneth Drive is zoned residential.”
For Realm Realty to make any changes to Kenneth Drive it would have to be approved by a vote of the council, said Hinkley.
Changes to the project were made to help alleviate traffic, something Realm Realty received complaints about from the council and parish administration.
The developer came back with the addition of an access road that would run parallel to Highway 23, as well as the creation of a traffic signal where Kenneth Drive intersects with Highway 23.
Many other alterations were made to the plans throughout the talks between parish government and Realm Realty, said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.
Hinkley said he has talked with Realm Realty since July or August 2010.
The original format in Feb. 2010 featured a Winn Dixie, a hotel and about a dozen more storefronts.
The extra stores were removed to make room for detention ponds, in hopes of reducing the risk of flooding, as well as trees and landscaping to act as a buffer between the shopping center and the nearby homes in the SpringWood Estates subdivision.
“What they’ve got down on piece of paper right now is not acceptable,” said Hinkley. “What they’ve applied for, personally, I don’t see as being valid.”