LEESVILLE, La. --The City of Leesville introduced an ordinance Monday afternoon that will pave the way for commercial and residential development just outside Fort Polk gates.
During its regular meeting Monday, the Leesville City Council authorized Leesville Mayor Robert Rose to enter into a buy-sell agreement with East Central Vernon Water System. The agreement will allow the City to acquire property for infrastructure improvements along La. 467 from the current city limits to Fort Polk and along a proposed parkway between La. 467 and La. 468.
"This is an agreement that has been in the works for several years," said Mayor Rose, referencing work done by the City's previous administration. "The acquisition of water assets along La. 467 and the proposed parkway between La. 467 and La. 468 will bring us one step closer to creating a well-developed urban area just outside Fort Polk's gates and will put our goal of providing amenities such as chain restaurants, better retail shopping opportunities and better housing for our soldiers and citizens well within our grasp."
The City will acquire assets along La. 467 and along Hannah Road. In addition, lines connecting La. 467 to La. 468 will also be acquired by the City. The City and Parish have already begun construction of new, larger water lines in this area to serve the anticipated growth.
The City annexed this property in May 2013 in anticipation of acquiring the water assets, said Mayor Rose.
The customers along La. 467 and Hannah Road, 30 in all, have already been enjoying a lower fire rating since they were annexed into the City, said Mayor Rose. In the coming months, the water meters servicing these customers will be removed and replaced with water meters from the City of Leesville. East Central has already notified these customers of the change, and the City will also send out a welcoming letter.
East Central will retain its water customers along La. 468.
The money to finalize this agreement is set to become available in March, with a closing date on the transaction also set for March.
The acquisition of the water assets in this area is part of a larger goal of developing the University Parkway Economic Development District. The district was formed by the Vernon Parish Police Jury in August 2011 following the awarding of $25 million by the state of Louisiana to provide water, sewer and an arterial connecting La. 467 to La. 468.
These publicly funded infrastructure improvements are intended to stimulate private investment and controlled development of the area.
The plan for University Parkway, envisioned by the Regional Growth Management Team, a committee of elected officials, interested citizens, and Fort Polk representatives, is to develop the rural parkway to connect La. 28 to Fort Polk's Entrance Road, creating a whole new traffic flow in the process. Subdivisions and additional commercial areas are key components of that development.
Filling in along the highway will address demographic issues for commercial development. For example, large restaurant chains usually object to coming to an area unless it fits within a certain demographic. So far, Leesville, and even Fort Polk, has failed to meet those requirements.
However, providing water and sewer paves the way for housing developers, said Mayor Rose. Once housing is established and a certain population is attained, then commercial development follows.
The land along the highway is owned primarily by large timber companies, two of which have a history of developing. The timber companies have responded positively about the area's potential, said Mayor Rose.
In May 2013, the City of Leesville, in an effort to control development and prevent the establishment of inconsistent land uses, adopted an ordinance providing for a moratorium on all construction along La. 467 for a period of one year.
The Regional Growth Management Team meets monthly with the University Parkway Economic Development District Commission. Mayor Robert Rose and Mr. Jim Tuck, President of The Vernon Parish Police Jury, are co- chairs of the team.
The City is also seeking bond funding to add a fire station in the University Parkway area.
The city will ask the Louisiana State Bond Commission for permission to issue up to $1.8 million in 25-year revenue bonds at 6 percent interest.
The bonds would be paid off using sales and ad valorem taxes, utility revenue and general fund money not already obligated.