Future of major development project uncertain

By Brandon Richards- bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC-TV) – The future of a major road and economic project for north Lake Charles is now in question.

The City of Lake Charles finds itself locked in a dispute with Friend Ships, a worldwide humanitarian organization, over two acres of land the City says it needs for the Enterprise Boulevard Parkway Extension project. The extension would allow the City to develop commercial property along parts of the riverfront.

The City says most property owners have been cooperative, but the City refuses to pay the amount Friend Ships is asking for their property: $2 million.

Friend Ships attorney Hunter Lundy said the two acres is actually more valuable than $2 million. Lundy said reputable financial experts the organization has hired estimate the value to be more in the range of $8 million.

City Council Marshall Simien, whose district the project would take place in, says Friend Ships is being greedy.

"This is not an $8 million building," declared Simien, pointing to the administrative office for Friend Ships, which sits on property the City would need to acquire to develop the extension project. "I mean, there's no way in the world that is an $8 million building. Look at what's going on back here. It's just basically a storage yard. This property is not worth anywhere near what they're trying to ask for."

But Lundy says the facility is more than meets the eye.

"No one has a clue how much is moved out of [Friend Ships]," said Lundy. "This organization gives food to the poor, clothing to the poor. They provide medical to those in need all over the world."

Lundy says it was improper for Simien to call Friend Ships greedy and characterize them as standing in the way of community progress.

"They just want to be treated fairly. They're not going to have their property stolen," said Lundy.

Lake Charles City Attorney Billy Loftin calls Friend Ships' offer "very speculative and unreasonable." Loftin said the organization is affecting the feasibility of the extension project.

If the two sides are not able to come to an agreement over the value of the property on their own, it will be up to a court to decide in February.

Either way, Simien said the project would continue.

Copyright 2010 KPLC. All rights reserved.