Council gives Mardi Gras Boardwalk thumbs up

By Lee Peck - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Despite the Lake Charles Downtown Development Authority's recommendation to not to move forward with the proposed Mardi Gras Boardwalk development the City Council pulled out all the stops to move the project forward. 

"Our ultimate goal is for us to continue to grow," said Council President Rodney Geyen.

In a last minute move, Councilman Dana Carl Jackson - one of the development's biggest supporters - presented a conditional lease agreement for Mardi Gras Boardwalk for the council to consider. The agreement is similar to the one with Cypress Group and reads as follows:

City is authorized to enter into an option with MGB contingent upon inclusion of the following items in said option:

Option price to be similar to Cypress lease

A. 55 year term and two 5 year options similar to Cypress lease;
B. Rent structured similar to SGD/Hardrock lease with proper adjustments based on appraiser's input;
C. Timeline based on proposal submitted;
D. City not committed to providing parking, and no formal traffic study will be required;
E. Entire development shall be constructed as one project with a performance bond for the entire project;
F. All money from sales of any portion of the project shall be escrowed until completion of the project with an escrow agent of the City's choice;
G. Compliance with the Smart Code or as allowed by election if election option chosen by developer. However, the timeline may only be extended by consent of the City;
H. Condominium (Residential and Commercial) Owner's Association with adequate requirements for maintenance, upkeep and City oversight of expenditure of funds;
I. Written termination of current tract two lease obligations of the City, if any;
J. City will not provide any onsite infrastructure and the cost of any offsite infrastructure directly related to this project will be subject to negotiation as to responsibility for payment of same;
K. No financing plan, official market study or economic impact reports will be required with the performance bond;
L. City is not obligated to provide options for Tract 1D or Pinnacle property. However, the City will follow all legal requirements to consider any future requests by MGB should these two tracts become available in the future;
M. All other terms and conditions deemed appropriate by the City Council; and
N. Final Option terms and conditions to be approved by the City Council.

As for the questions surrounding financing, Jackson said if MGB can produce a performance bond there is no question whether they can do it.

"If you put up one of those the city is very safe. That is financing - that's cash. If they can't build it and put one of those up. The city is very secure," said Jackson.

Though some things have changed since the original proposal - no roller coaster, an optional Ferris Wheel - dependent upon an October vote of the public - many still feel the shops, restaurants and overall atmosphere will be intrusive to nearby Veteran's Memorial Park.

"You go to a memorial park to contemplate the sacrifice of our veterans made for us - in life and in limb and that's the purpose of it. The two are not compatible," said Tore Carlberg, Chairman of the Republican Calcasieu Parish Executive Committee.

Though a little on the defensive, Jackson says he respects the veterans and even agreed their suggestion to move the park might be a good idea.

"The lakefront is not going to be quiet. I mean it's just not. I don't think we can ask it to stay quiet. It's our best prime property to put things to develop," said Jackson. "Maybe moving it might be the thing to do. But you can't promise it's going to be quiet forever wherever it's moved."

Others opposed took the podium. "I think that's a project we need to kill tonight! lets vote no! let's go on. We've wasted enough time on this project. We've got to move forward," said Jim Huff. "We're losing credibility every time this comes up."

"But we have absolutely nobody beating our door down to build anything on the lakefront. And I'm surprised that after a year these people are actually still thinking about it, which this might be a deal breaker who knows," said Jackson.

"I don't know if these people are going to deliver what they are promising, but if they are willing to put it down on paper and say they are going to promise it. I'm willing to give it a shot," said Councilman Marshall Simien, Jr. "Lake Charles needs an

"If they follow the rules. I think it would be perfect for the lakefront," said Council Vice President John Ieyoub.

"And if they don't cross those hurdles in a timely manner, then the project goes away and that area will be available to other developers," said Councilman Stuart Weatherford.

Again, the council vote unanimously to move forward with Mardi Gras Boardwalk. Meanwhile several DDA members were at Wednesday night's meeting. DDA President Adley Cormier said they are very disappointed with the council's actions and feel they were left out of the review process for the last minute conditional lease option.

Copyright 2009 KPLC. All rights reserved.