Faced With Paying For Juban Crossing Themselves, Livingston Resists

juban crossingRemember when Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed Sen. Dale Erdey’s bill to force the state to provide security to finance the construction of the Juban Crossing retail development in Livingston Parish? More specifically, remember the parade of hatred and vitriol pointed in Jindal’s direction from the Livingston Parish crowd after that veto?

Interestingly enough, now that Livingston is put in the position to float its own bond to finance the project a level of scrutiny for which Jindal was assailed as “anti-Livingston” when considering his veto has now descended on Juban Crossing’s developer.

The Livingston Daily Times is becoming a bit chippy with Creekstone Properties in advance of the Livingston Parish Council’s vote tomorrow on the question of floating that bond. From LDT’s Facebook page

1. The developer says Juban Crossing will produce $625M annually in sales, with 1.2M square feet of retail space. That is $520 per square foot. No retail space in the state of Louisiana achieves those numbers except the Mall of Louisiana. Livingston Parish doesn’t have the same per capita income or the population density the Mall of Louisiana does. Per DOTD, there are about 100K cars a day on the interstate by the mall exit, about 30K more than Livingston. There have been several news stories lately about former tenants at Town Center, who say Keller misrepresented the sales numbers there.

2. If Juban Crossing actually did $625M in sales annually, that would mean taxpayers are pledging $20.3M per year in sales tax revenue to this private developer ($625 x .0325) so he can issue bonds. For 30 years. That’s over $600M in future tax revenue as security.

3. Why do taxpayers have to give this developer $200M in bond money to build this development? A report in the Baton Rouge Business Report says the total cost of the project is $350M. The taxpayers get to pay more than half and the developer owns it all?

4. Did the parish council ever get any expert advice on whether this is a fair deal for the parish and the taxpayers? What consulting firm did they hire? Is it common for them to make a decision of this magnitude without expert advice?

5. Has the parish even ordered a Dun & Bradstreet report on the developer to see that they are sound financially and meeting all their other financial obligations?

6. Would making a decision of this magnitude without due diligence potentially expose the parish to more legal action?

7. Has the council considered any restrictions on the bond money? Will it only be paid out in increments as the various phases of the project are completed? What assurances or performance guarantees exist to make certain the project is completed in full or that it is actually as upscale as promoted?

8. The developer is asking for 100% of the drainage money on a project that will put 471 acres under concrete. To completely tie up the taxpayer’s drainage money for 30 years is questionable. That much storm water runoff is bound to create some issues, some of which may not be foreseeable over 30 years.

9. At 10.5%, Juban Crossing will be known as the highest sales tax rate in the state of Louisiana (with the exception of the special 10.75% rate at the New Orleans airport). In fact, this will be one of the highest sales tax rates in the entire nation, according to Vertex, which makes tax software for national retailers.

10. Has it ever occurred to council members that Juban Crossing is actually preventing development in Livingston Parish? This project has been talked about since 2005. Retailers that intend to expand only open a certain number of stores per year. Retailers continue to overlook the Livingston Parish market each year, waiting on Juban Crossing to happen. They are content to expand elsewhere and wait. Are we?

Those are SENSATIONAL questions, and one can only ponder as to why a project which has been around for eight years hasn’t generated such queries long ago.

Or – and here’s us being a little persnickety – why it was so terrible for the governor to be asking them around the time he was being beaten about the head and shoulders by Erdey and the rest of the Livingston Parish courthouse gang for having vetoed the special taxing district and the $45 million in financing for Juban Crossing back in the spring.

At the time of the veto, the Livingston Parish News lustily engaged in the bashing of Jindal for turning his back on Livingston – “cooking its goose,” was the specific metaphor used by the paper.

Because Juban Crossing was a needful thing for Livingston, you see. That’s why it was crucial the state pick up the tab for it rather than a local bond be floated, or – and this is really crazy – private dollars would be the source of its financing.

Now that this is Livingston’s baby, as it always should have been, the same folks who demanded the participation of all 64 parishes in making it happen are stomping on the brakes and questioning whether it’s a smart use of tax dollars.

Well, welcome to the party, folks! Next time, don’t complain when somebody subjects your projects to the same scrutiny you do.

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