It’s the New Year, and everyone has resolutions. I swear that I will lose the weight I gained this fall, quit throwing pennies at homeless people, and try to control my smart-ass mouth when I talk to random people in the street. But since we all break our resolutions, I made one revolution: to get more involved in the mind-numbing crap that is going on in my own hometown. So this year starts off with the battle over the casinos and the Rouzan project. At least it is more productive than ghostwriting Britney Spears’ mother’s new book, just without all that fiction.Pinnacle did the next best thing to actually buying off the voters: They’re going to pay the state for the election. I’d say it’s an ethically gray area, but this is Louisiana. So, February 9, you get to decide whether to add a gaudy development off of Bluebonnet and River Road. I predict that there will be a low turnout, as they really aren’t getting the word out that we get to decide. As usual, common sense and logic keep getting in the way of Pinnacle ingraining their message into my noggin.
We already have two competing casinos located downtown. Since their arrival, that area has seen a rebuilding that has made it a destination for art, classy bars, and nighttime entertainment. The casinos, along with the Farmer’s Market, Shaw Center, and Live after Five, have given me several reasons to frequent our beautiful downtown.
Pinnacle Entertainment seems to not have a website that I can find to tell me what they are going to develop. For all I know, they are moving Neverland Ranch and putting it on River Road, on top of an ancient Indian burial mound, surrounded by a moat of alligators with laser beams on their heads. From what I remember reading months ago, I think the plans include a monorail, shopping, a spa, and some sort of Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND). (Note to Mr. Spinosa: That is a good location for a TND, not the Ford Farm.)
Now, if they really wanted my vote, they would go ahead and build their hotel, golf course, convention center, TND, and all the stuff other than the casino. They would even pitch in to CATS to get the buses to come there and pay DOTD to widen Nicholson from the city, then ask us for a casino. I’d say yes if they did all that first. I’m just afraid that, if they win, the other parts of their plan will never come true after they put in their boat. I’ve been burned before.
Next on my list is that Rouzan project. I know what a TND is, but I think the Rouzan developer is using a loose meaning of the term. The developer is trying to build 800 or so “homes” on 119 acres – not too bad, but still 6.7 homes per acre. That’s a lot size of 80’ x 80’ – nothing big, but livable. But that’s not actually the size, because he is “donating” 23 acres to a library and parks. OK, so now there are 96 acres to use for houses.
“But Holden, they are going to have 100,000 square feet of shopping, too.” So that means at least three times that area to include parking, and 300,000 square feet is about 7 more acres, leaving less than 89 acres of house space. Let’s assume that there are 2 miles of roads through the subdivision and shopping area, all with 12-foot-wide lanes. That adds another 6 acres of roadway, further diminishing the available housing acreage to a measly 83 acres. For you with math problems, this amounts to lots that are only 4,500 square feet (67’ x 67’). There are houses on Woodchase Boulevard (a road that the Rouzan project would be adjacent to) that have interior space at least the size of Rouzan lots.
Now, what kind of house can you build on one of those tiny lots? It doesn’t really matter, since the development requires that you build one of their houses, use only their builders, and follow their rules. Not much for actually living the way you want. On the website of Rouzan, it even goes so far to say “…standards for…home maintenance…” Will Mr. Spinosa be telling me exactly how high the grass has to be before I cut it, and what color of white to paint the designated picket fence that he says is the right size for my house that he so graciously designs, builds, and obviously maintains? But let me tell you that you are going to pay more than the surrounding communities for your picture-perfect house.
In all interest of fair journalism, I must say that the website mentions other successful TNDs around the area. Let me save you the trip to Mr. Spinosa’s website by pointing out the cities. Lost Rabbit TND, located near the Jackson, Mississippi airport, is located on 260 acres of forest and is adjacent to the 33,000-acre Ross Barnett Reservoir. Next is The Village of Providence, located near Huntsville, Alabama. This one is bounded by woods, with two creeks running through the project. He didn’t mention Celebration, Florida, the Disney community.
Mr. Spinosa, let me tell you the key to all the success of the above TNDs: They are all surrounded by forested areas. Rouzan is going to be situated amongst old growth neighborhoods and housing developments. I believe that is the crux of what concerns the residents of Southdowns and the surrounding area. Hell, I hate Perkins Rowe due to all the traffic it is going to generate at a busy intersection, but at least it is not wedged in between two subdivisions and has lots of room to move the traffic. Mr. Spinosa, make the project smaller and allow for green, natural woods as a buffer, or take your TND to an area that has the room for such a project without cramming it in a small lot.
I guess this all leads to the Metro Council at some point. Lucky for us, there is such a body to make levelheaded decisions based on the will of the voting public. After all, they unanimously voted to lift blue laws, welcomed to the city all creeds and sexual orientations, voted to render drink specials legal all hours of the night, and calmly elected the Mayor Pro-Tempore… They didn’t?!?!? Well, a little revolution is good every now and then, I guess.