St. Charles Council approves 'world-class' marina, boat launch

Opponents rejected land lease deal

September 06 at 10:20 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

St. Charles Council approves 'world-class' marina, boat launch
St. Charles Parish councilmembers approved an estimated $3 million "world-class" marina and boat launch for the West Bank despite being challenged about the terms of the land deal.

The “Hwy. 90 Boat Launch” is planned on a 33.27-acre site east of Pier 90 on Bayou Virette. A conceptual drawing shows the location including a nature trail, shelter with BBQ pad, fish cleaning station, kayak launch facility, a wetland workshop pavilion and a boat launch, as well as parking.

Council members Wendy Benedetto, Julia Fisher-Perrier, Dick Gibbs, Traci Fletcher and Billy Woodruff voted for the project with the property lease. Council Chair Terrell Wilson and Councilman Paul Hogan opposed it, Councilwoman Marilyn Bellock was absent and Councilwoman Mary Clulee abstained from voting on the project because of a conflict of interest. 

While all who commented at Monday’s council meeting agree the parish needs more boat launches, they disagreed over the parish leasing the marina site for $4,500 a month for 30 years from Gerald Savoie Jr., manager and agent of Gator Cove Marina II LLC in Cut Off, La.

The project’s first phase is estimated to cost more than a $1 million for construction, including $156,894 for road improvements, $94,800 in mitigation on 1.58 acres of the property, and two boat launches with bulkheads at $250,000.Councilman Paul Hogan objected to the lease deal and called for an expanded search for alternatives that includes buying or expropriating the land.

Hogan also said Savoie is the nephew of Neal Clulee, whose wife, Mary, serves on the council. A bill of sale also shows the Clulees sold the marina acreage to Savoie for $100 in August.

Clulee said they waited on making the land transfer until they were confident the parish would pursue the project.

Also, Savoie formed the company on May 11, 2017, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State business filings.

The Clulees, who also own land adjoining the future marina location, donated the road for the project. The council approved the access servitude as part of the project.Clulee abstained on voting for the lease and servitude, but voted to approve amending the lease.

Hogan also questioned whether the property had been appraised before “this kind of crazy money is spent on this lease.” He asked why lease the land at a cost that will exceed its value at $50,000 in just one year.

“What happened tonight is criminal,” he said. “This stinks the high heaven, and the people of this parish should be outraged.

“Please do not take the taxpayers to the cleaners,” Hogan told the council.

Parish President Larry Cochran said the project “is a lot of money but no more than what we’re doing on the East Bank” for Wetland Watchers Park.

Cochran added, “there’s a lot of ways we could pay for it down the line.”

The site has room for expansion on the north side of the park, he added.

“This could be a world-class site,” he told Hogan.Danny Hebert of Civil & Environmental Consulting Engineers, who provided the conceptual design for Phase 1 of the project, said the location did not have “gating” issues that could come with water bottoms owned by private property owners, as was considered with other possible sites.

But several residents told the council they opposed leasing the property rather than buying it, and particularly at this price.

Bruce McDonald of Luling said he was enthusiastic about getting a boat launch, but criticized the lease terms, adding “This is not too good of a deal.”

McDonald added the lease amount would likely grow since it’s based on a Consumer Price Index adjustment every five years.

As did other opponents of this project, McDonald questioned leasing the property rather than buying it and whether it was large enough to accommodate events that would justify a lease amount he considered exorbitant.

McDonald asked the council to table the move until other options could be considered with more due diligence.Proponents of the project welcomed the location’s educational opportunities, as well as access.

Barry Guillot, also of Luling, said the boat launch site was “ideal for development” with the potential for cabins and a conference room in the future. “The Savoie property is our best option.”

Destrehan’s Brian Landry of Ducks Unlimited said the planned boat launch would also access more than 1,500 acres of land the organization purchased and donated for public use in the area.

View other articles written Anna Thibodeaux

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