Gonzales reconsiders zoning for Fortune 500 company

GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - Some people believe a rash decision by the Gonzales City Council nixed a big business deal. Three councilmen voted against a zoning requirement that would have allowed a Fortune 500 company to build there.

Construction crews are turning dirt at the River Parishes Community College in Gonzales. The school broke ground Thursday morning on a new 81,000 square foot facility.

But the future of the school goes well beyond what the eyes can see. Emerson Process Management has also set its sights on the campus for its new regional headquarters.

Ascension Parish Chamber of Commerce Chairman, Paul Claxton, said the company offered to work with RPCC to offer programs in the technical fields.

"The ideal situation it would be a partnership with RPCC, and really the response rate has been phenomenal," Claxton said.

Claxton said he thought it was a done deal. Until Monday, when three Gonzales City Council members, Gary Lacombe, Terrance Irvin and Tim Vessel, voted against a zoning variance that would have allowed Emerson to build at Highway 44 and Interstate 10.

On Thursday morning, Claxton sent a letter to Chamber members encouraging them to call and write the three men who voted against the proposal. He said things are already taking a turn for the better.

"There has been an agreement reached, and it looks like this could move forward," Claxton said.

Claxton believes his letter helped persuade council members.

Mayor Barney Arceneaux said it came down to a zoning technicality.

"The concern, as I understand, with some of the councilmen would be if someone would come in down the line. Ten years from now, say if someone wanted to come in and Emerson decided to move out. Their concern was, what would it be? What would locate there," Arceneaux explained.

Arceneaux believes he and his council have come up with plan that will make everyone involved happy.

"The negotiations are going very, very well, and I'm feeling a lot better today," Arceneaux said.

Arceneaux expects Emerson will be settled into its new home by the end of this year.

The city council will vote on the new zoning variance when they meet on Monday.

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