Wetlands ruling clears way for new employers

McHugh David  | The Livingston Parish News

WALKER — A recent win in the appeal of a wetlands determination may finally unlock nearly half of a 200-acre site for further development of the Livingston Industrial Park on U.S. 190, the director of the Livingston Economic Development Council told his board last week.

LEDC has been grappling for years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get the permits allowing additional tenants on the 199.84 acres just outside the eastern city limits of Walker bought Dec. 20, 1984, for $399,680. The latest ruling also will allow the addition of a second entrance, LEDC President Randy Rogers said.

Rogers, with assistance from Vice President Abigail DePino and executive board member Steve Stein (of Whitney Bank), has worked diligently since the Army Corps of Engineers designated 93 acres of LEDC’s land as wetlands to overturn that decision.

“Several years back, there was a wetlands determination made on the property,” Rogers said. “It makes it much more challenging to develop.”

The LEDC was not convinced that the research was done correctly, he said.

“We had evidence that they did not visit the site properly,” DePino said.

According to Rogers, the Corps had returned and re-released the flood determination maps, freeing about 70 percent of the property after 2-3 years in limbo.

“There’s a shortage of good industrial sites throughout the capital region that aren’t on the Mississippi River,” Rogers said. “So we’re working with Walker, (Livingston) Parish, and potentially the state of Louisiana and possibly a federal grant to help expand the capability of the park.”

The combined effort would help to extend the current roadway to a secondary exit onto U.S. 190, about one mile east of the current exit. The roadway would extend through the recently freed property, making it available for current tenants to conduct expansions or for new prospects to build fresh locations.

Rogers was ecstatic about the Industrial Park recently becoming a State Certified Economic Site, designated by the state. The title was bestowed after LEDC collected information for potential clients, including borings, millages, utility placement and wetlands designation.

“Once we construct this road and upgrade the utilities, we’ll be successful in short order selling the remainder of the sites to companies that will create jobs,” Rogers said.

According to the Assessor’s office, the park currently generates $1,222,303.46 in property taxes to the parish, with several sites still under 10-year property tax alleviation programs that are provided as incentives by state and local governments.

The monetary benefits don’t stop there, either, according to DePino. There are roughly 800 employees who work inside the industrial park, with over $1 million in payroll paid out annually.

“Most of that money stays right here in Livingston Parish,” DePino said. “Some does leave, but the largest part of it goes to people who live here.”

That number will only rise once the new sites are open and available, and Rogers is adamant that the LEDC can not only fill those spots, but already has a potential tenant signed up.

“Expect a big announcement from us near the end of the first quarter of this year,” Rogers said. “We’re proud of the client we were able to attract, and have no doubt that we can get more.”