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Contentious debate at MPC meeting sets the stage for Thursday night

August 01, 2012

If today’s meeting of the Shreveport Metropolitan Planning Commission provided a preview of Thursday’s NLCOG Informational Meeting on the Stage 0 study, then the tension will tangible and the atmosphere volatile in the LSUS University Ballroom.

The majority of the debate centered around the time frame for reviewing and discerning the findings of the Stage 0 study. Further issues regarding Larkin Development’s construction permits and authorization were brought up by attorney Whitney Pesnell, representing Willis-Knighton Health System.

Winzer Andrews, MPC chairman, opened Wednesday’s meeting by reading a statement on behalf of the MPC, which he said would be read again at Thursday’s meeting. “We would like to convey the planning commission's desire that the comment period be extended for 30 to the volume and complexity of the document, which was posted on the DOTD's website on July 31st, 2012.”

The debate really heated up when the commission got to the eighth item on the agenda which was the case of Larkin Development’s road from Railsback to East Flournoy Lucas that was sent back to the MPC from the Shreveport City Council. The Council asked the MPC for a fair and expedient solution which will allow for the extension of the road. MPC staffer Steven Jean told the commission that the packets are up to date but there is no new information.

Tom Arceneaux, attorney representing Larkin Development, asks the commission a question, “In light of your remarks earlier about the stage zero report, is it correct that the MPC would like more information before a decision is made?” To which the commission acknowledged it would like more information, particularly the results of the Stage 0 report, which it only received the day before the meeting.

Arceneaux says, “Because there are parties who would like to move forward as quickly as possible with the building of their homes. I’m asking the MPC to call an August 15 public hearing to move this issue forward.”
He further states that after reviewing the Stage 0 proposed routes (A, B-1 and B-2) that Larkin Development “will request no changes because the proposed routes do not negatively impact their plans.” Larkin Development will be prepared to make a more formal presentation at the time of the public hearing in mid-August.

Commissioner Bessie Smith explains to Arceneaux that because the commission just received the report yesterday, “we don't really comprehend everything yet.” Smith asks everyone to give the MPC time to comprehend everything they received yesterday.

In response to Arceneaux, 3132 Coalition spokesperson Elliott Stonecipher says, “August 15th is far too early for there to be an MPC public hearing on this. We hope to demonstrate at tomorrow's hearing that it will take far longer than that to address the issues raised in the Stage 0 feasibility study.” Stonecipher points out that only parts of the study were posted to the NLCOG website on Friday, July 27 and that as he understands changes will continue to be made on the website “all the way up until the meeting tomorrow.”

In reviewing the study, Stonecipher says he sees no recommendation about which route will be forwarded to the Stage 1 feasibility study. “We will re-urge that no one consider Stage 0 the true study.” He points out the Dr. Eric Kalivoda stated that only time at which any questions will be answered is to wait on Stage 1. After stating further concerns about tomorrow’s meeting, Stonecipher reiterates his point about Aug. 15 being “awfully awfully quick to address what will be heard tomorrow night.”

Pesnell followed Stonecipher and presented legal questions to the MPC as to why Larkin Development is being allowed to proceed with any development and road construction until many of the 3132 issues are resolved.

“Some of his plans are clearly in the way of a couple of the proposed routes.” Pesnell said. “We don't think he should be allowed to move forward until Stage 1 is finalized. We have concerns about what is going on out there right now.”

Pesnell filed a copy of a letter and other documentation into the record which he says was sent to Charles Kirkland of the MPC on July 27, stating, “We believe our letter and the documentation attached to the letter make it clear that Larkin is proceeding with construction of his road from his bridge to Flournoy Lucas Road right now even though he doesn't have a permit.”

He also presented a construction contract between Larkin Development and a local construction company which was signed in April. Pesnell said, “The contract provided that the construction of a water main would be completed by last Friday, and it was.”

Pesnell also said, “Attached to the letter is a permit for a temporary construction road, but what Larkin is trying to build is not a construction road, but a two or four lane public highway. We believe that he doesn't have a right to even build that construction road.”

The attorney then reads a copy of a Caddo Parish Commission ordinance which gives Larkin Development permission to develop a 100-acre tract only with certain conditions. One of the conditions is that new homes shall not be constructed except those that front Railsback Road. No further construction is allowed until the road to Flournoy-Lucas Road is completed. The ordinance goes on to provide that development of the 100-acre tract shall begin within two years of the adoption of the ordinance or the zoning will become null and void.
“So, there has to be a permanent road from Flournoy Lucas on Feb. 6, 2008,” Pesnell says. “It has been more than two years, so we don't think he even has the zoning to develop the property anymore. The zoning has expired and he hasn't finished the road from Flournoy Lucas to his bridge. We're at a loss to understand how he is being allowed to proceed.” He suggests that the MPC should seek a cease and desist order until zoning is re-acquired and ordinances are complied with.

Commissioner Mary Ruffins says she and the other commissioners received a letter from Chesapeake Energy saying all the work is related exclusively to installation of a pipeline and has nothing to with Larkin Development.

Pesnell conceded that Chesapeake is constructing a pipeline not related to Larkin's property, but believes that's not the only construction being done. He said, “The contract you have and the work that has been done has nothing to do with what Chesapeake is doing.”

Commissioner Mary Wilson asks MPC staffer Roy Jambor what the commission can do or what procedures need to be followed. Jambor does not necessarily agree that the zoning is the question.

Commissioner Bessie Smith addresses Pesnell saying she went out there and talked to the workers. “I'm just thinking for myself. Some of the things you're talking about are out of our control. I know you've presented relative points that are out of our control. You keep saying these things over and over and so they must be out of your control, too.”

Pesnell replied, “I'm not suggesting you or I can control everything, but the MPC has the authority to take actions relative to zoning and to take action against people who are in violation of zoning ordinances. We haven't found anything that extended that zoning beyond the two-year period. The zoning expired ipso facto by its own term. Does Mr. Jambor have something to confirm that? If not, Larkin should not be doing anything out there until the DOTD's Stage 1 feasibility study is complete.”

Willie Bradford followed Pesnell stated that at the previous MPC meeting, “even the MPC staff got outraged when they saw submitted photographs that appeared to show road construction had begun.” Bradford urges the commission “to ask Arceneaux and Larkin if you want to know what's going on.”

Darrel Fultz, who said he is the de facto spokesman for the citizens on Railsback Road, says that in2007 “after weeks and weeks of negotiations with Larkin we acquiesced and came to an agreement. Any change to that would have a negative impact on the homeowners on Railsback. We are not opposed to Esplanade as long as he (Larkin) has permanent access to Flournoy Lucas Road.”

Commissioner Dale Colvin asks Fultz if the citizens on Railsback have a problem with Larkinusing the road until Phase 1 is done. Fultz reiterates that it would violate the 2007 agreement.

Arceneaux returns for rebuttal and vehemently said, “Some of the statements made to you are reckless and inaccurate. Mr. Larkin is not building a road and has no intent to build a road. There is no subterfuge going on, but every time we come here someone wants to give you innuendo to lead you to believe something is going on that shouldn't be going on. Larkin isn't doing anything illegal, immoral or without a permit and anybody who says he is, is not well informed or is not truthful.”

In an earlier agenda item regarding Larkin’s Esplanade Development, he filed for a Unit 5 development which sits between Unit 2 and Unit 4. Larkin displays a plat application showing four units which are under construction and the proposing new Unit 5. Larkin was asked if this is the final unit in this section to which he said there will be at least one other.

One section, Larkin says, is being re-planned because it is in the path of one of the proposed extension routes of 3132. He says they have a land plan should the highway be extended as well as a land plan should it not be extended.

Unit 5, according to MPC's Alan Young, is approximately 100 acres.

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May 27, 2014
Elliott Stonecipher, spokesperson for the Finish 3132 Coalition, offers an update on the project.
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