CENTRAL, LA (WAFB) - More players have asked to join a lawsuit that looks to block the progression of a $250 million development in Central.
Described as a city within a city, the Settlement at Shoe Creek is set to bring 450 homes, 250 apartments and what city leaders say is much needed retail space to the growing area.
However, a lawsuit filed against Mayor Jr. Shelton and members of the City Council claims the project violates city code, from having too many apartments to not having enough access roads.
On Thursday, the contractor for Shoe Creek filed a petition for intervention, voluntarily joining the lawsuit as a defendant. The petition says any delays to construction could cost the contractor tens of thousands of dollars a day. Shelton calls the lawsuit baseless.
"This particular traditional neighborhood development, regardless of what some people may think, has followed every rule," said Shelton. "We have been in constant contact with our attorneys, with our planning experts. This is part of what Central was going to be when we even drew up the master plan."
Shelton went on to explain the project was carefully considered by leaders for eight months to ensure that it met Central's laws and needs. He said even the location on Sullivan Road was chosen because it is a mix of residential and commercial property, just like the development itself.
"It will bring people out here for fun events and show Central off and perhaps bring new residents. That's what we want. We do want to grow," said Shelton.
The lawsuit, filed by Dave Freneaux, Michael Mannino and Michael Stephens, alleges the number of apartments is too dense for what the city actually allows. It also claims that, at the time the project was approved by the City Council, it did not have a viable traffic study because of a change in the planned access roads.
"There needs to be infrastructure in place for the safety and wellbeing of the citizenry, and that requires two access points," said Seth Dornier, the petitioner's attorney. "There was a problem with that. We don't believe that problem has been satisfied as of date."
When the council approved the project, there was an amendment that required a secondary road be built before any occupancy permits are granted.
Shelton said there is a plan to extend an existing, unfinished road from the neighboring Central Square Development. He said he made an agreement with the property manager to ensure the road will be finished, and once completed, would be maintained by the city.
Shelton said this is standard practice for any new roads that meet city standards, but the lawsuit claims that Shelton does not have the authority to make that agreement.
"In this case under the circumstances that it was done with a third party, we believe it was inappropriate," said Dornier.
As far as the apartments goes, Shelton said there are several factors that allow for 250. He said the contractor is building fewer single family homes than what was approved. The mayor said fewer houses, along with other amenities in the project, allow for more apartments.
Shelton said the lawsuit may have other roots. Freneaux, one of the three plaintiffs, lost to the mayoral election to Shelton in 2014. Freneaux's attorney denies any political motivations.
"This suit is about the taxpayers demanding that the city through its elected officials follow the law," said Dornier.
An evidentiary hearing on the lawsuit is set for Wednesday, August 19.