Ascension targets demanding district for roadwork in La. 30 industrial area. Here’s what’s planned | New

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Over the past two and a half years, $9-10 billion in new industrial projects or major expansions have been announced for Ascension Parish.

Methanex, CF Industries, Westlake, Shell, Huntsman, Lion Elastomers and others have all made announcements for major new operations or expansions since 2019.

Many, but not all, of these projects are targeted for the parish’s East Rim corridor along La. 30, where traffic has become a pressing concern as thousands of workers and shoppers use the area every day.

Parish government officials are considering a new district in the Geismar and Darrow areas that would set aside some of the sales and property taxes collected from factories in the area to improve roads serving them.

Based on the proposed tax district sweep, La. 30, La. 73, La. 74 and other highways are possible work sites, including a new Interstate 10 interchange between Dutchtown and Gonzales, parish officials said. .

The district, if passed later this month, would not require a tax increase.

John Diez, executive director of Ascension, said the district would take the increased revenue, or raise above existing sales and property tax revenue, to fund roadwork in the area. New industrial growth, supported by still relatively cheap natural gas prices, is expected to drive these revenue numbers higher over the next few years.

“So we’re not taking existing taxes,” Diez said. “Basically, we are levying taxes that are not currently being collected, but as a result of this development, they will be generated. »

Diez said Ascension and other parts of the Baton Rouge area have created similar tax increment funding districts in the past, including for the Cabela’s shopping complex in Gonzales and the new Amazon complex in the old mall. Cortana in Baton Rouge.

Parish officials also recently created a similar infrastructure district on thousands of acres of isolated farmland and forestry in the Modeste region west of Ascension, which is proposed as the next industrial area of ​​the parish.

Like the existing West Bank District, the proposed East Bank District would use increases in the parish property tax and the 1-cent parish sales tax levied in the district.

The district would not affect tax revenue from other jurisdictions, such as the school board or the sheriff, Diez said, nor the other combined parish sales tax penny earmarked for roads, fire departments and shoreline drainage. is.

The district would follow the Mississippi River from the open lands of the Darrow area southwest of Gonzales upstream to the parish line with Iberville. The neighborhood would also reach portions of La. 74 and Cornerview roads, but would be outside the city limits of Gonzales.

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Kate MacArthur, head of Ascension’s economic development arm, said while it’s still unclear how much revenue the district could generate, it would be a selling point for attracting new industry “because it’s a tool to help solve problems”.

“So, you know, if you were a business looking to set up on Highway 30 and you weren’t happy with the traffic conditions, you would at least have that in place. You would know that the parish is actively looking to fix it,” MacArthur said. “So how long it takes and how much money comes in, we don’t know, but I think it’s important that it’s a proactive step.”

She added that La. 30 is also possibly a collector highway for a proposed new bridge over the Mississippi River, adding to the urgency of improvements.

However, several factors are creating uncertainty about the district’s revenue potential, MacArthur noted.

Some announcements are not finalized. Others, like CF, are not finalized and are studying new sites in the West Bank. Some others, like Methanex, are already nearing completion and are unlikely to generate much additional revenue by the time the new district is set up.

But several billion dollars of work are still there. Diez cited figures from economist and LSU professor emeritus Loren Scott that every $2 billion in capital spending generates $8.8 million in local revenue over 10 years.

The parish council, which would oversee the district, is expected to consider creating the district boundaries in a final vote in mid-September. The council is expected to come back and pass the tax collection mechanism in a later vote after state officials intervene, Diez said.

Councilman Travis Turner, whose district in the Geismar area would be incorporated into the proposed tax area, said he still had questions about the idea.

He said he thinks he and fellow councilman Joel Robert, whose district will also be affected, should have more of a say than other members of the 11-person council on how future tax money is spent.

“I don’t think everyone should be even on this,” Turner said. “You know that my people have to deal with the chemical plants and their chemicals, not their own. So why should (other council members) get all the benefits from (the district) and none of the harmful effects of this one?”

Turner said he believes his votes and Robert’s should count at least double in decisions about the district.

Diez said parish officials are still talking to council members about the proposal.

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