Tension builds after Mayor Holden halts plan for North Baton Rouge economic development

Tension builds after Mayor Holden halts plan for North Baton Rouge economic development

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The tension is rising after Mayor Kip Holden this week used his first ever veto to halt a plan to bring economic development to North Baton Rouge.

The mayor said the plan had good intentions but needs to be adjusted before he can support it.

Residents like Tyrone Thomas feel as if North Baton Rouge is being neglected.

"The Piggly Wiggly just recently closed. The building over there used to be a Chevron. It closed about three years ago," Thomas said.

Thomas believes the community is crumbling and he is still shocked two days after the mayor vetoed a plan to create an economic development district in North Baton Rouge.

"The people of North Baton Rouge and myself was mad as hell because it took us five months to get economic development throughout the city council meeting to pass it," he added.

The goal of the district is to boost economic activity by providing tax breaks to developers who choose to locate north of Florida Boulevard. Thomas said getting new businesses in the area is vital.

"Because it's nothing here," he said. "It's no restaurants here, it's nothing that a person wants to visit, and it's no sightseeing here. It's disturbing to the people."

Thomas refers to the area as the forgotten North Baton Rouge. He said on every corner north of Florida Boulevard you see vacant parking lots and signs like the one on the front of what used to be the Plank Road Piggly Wiggly where stores simply have have to close up shop.

With the area in decline, residents fear if something doesn't change soon there will not be anything left to develop.

"Every business that comes pretty much starts up something but then they close because there's nobody you know here because they're moving you know every month," said Arica Thomas.

While the mayor said he understands the need, he disagrees with parts of the plan saying it looks good on paper but is not specific enough to provide long term change.

"It says you can have a piece of property. You can go and build on that property if you're in certain areas and you can then virtually lease that property out to somebody else and not pay any taxes whatsoever so therefore it's not fair," he said.

The mayor said he is willing to work on adjustments to the plan and move it forward, but maintains despite the controversy he will continue to do what he feels is right for North Baton Rouge and the entire city-parish.

"They can criticize me all they want but still the basic services of Baton Rouge and for the people of all East Baton Rouge Parish will not be compromised for political agendas," he added.

The Metro Council will have the chance to override the mayor's veto at their next meeting on Wednesday, April 27. They will need a two-thirds vote in order to bypass his action.

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