Gonzales City Council meeting draws standing-room-only crowd

Lisa Yates
Tyrone Smith speaks in opposition to a proposed ordinance to rezone land near the corner of W. Orice Roth Rd. and Veterans Blvd, in Gonzales

All of the available guest chairs in Council Chambers were filled, so another dozen concerned citizens spilled out into the standing-room-only hallway at the Gonzales City Council meeting on Monday, June 11.

A proposed ordinance set for public hearing and then a vote on June 26, concerning the rezoning of land near the corner of W. Orice Roth Rd. and Veterans Blvd. had people on both sides of the question expressing opinions.

If passed, the zoning would be changed from R-15 (residential) zone to a I-1 (commercial/industrial) zone.

N.A. “Sonny” Lamendola is seeking to have the zoning changed in order to accomodate construction of a facility for Emerson, a Fortune 500 company. The facility will include a flow lab, an AMS Lab, and will be the first regional headquarter facility of a Fortune 500 company in Gonzales.

The matter was first discussed at public hearing of the zoning commission, on June 4, where representatives from Emerson spoke touting the positive economic impacts of the proposed development.

John Diez, a spokesman for Emerson, provided Gonzales Weekly Citizen with a PowerPoint presentation outlining that information. The presentation stated that Emerson currently employs 90 people in the parish at an annual payroll of $4.6 million. The new facility will bring an additional 90 new jobs and more than $4.6 million in annual payroll, for a total of 180 jobs with an annual payroll of $9.2 million. This is expected to generate $61.3 million in additional household spending in the community over the next 10 years. Construction of the new faciity will create roughly 87 temporary jobs, generating another $4.4 million in personal income. Visitors traveling to the regional training center will generate an additional $621,600 in local spending.

Among those opposing the zoning change are homeowners in the residential communities of Kennedy Heights, Carrington Court, Lexington Court, Arrowhead Subdivision and Richland Estates. Tyrone Smith, a spokesman for the oppostion group, spoke to Gonzales Weekly Citizen following the council meeting.

“I want to make this perfectly clear, we are not opposed to Emerson,” he said. “We want them to locate their new facility in the parish. Instead of locating in an area that’s already zoned as a residential area, why can’t they choose another site that’s already zoned for commercial use?”

Smith said he presented a petition of 215 area residents expressing opposition to the zoning change. According to Smith, the property is in the heart of the minority community; and, the zoning change would have a negative impact on minority voting strength by reducing the  number of minority housing areas that may be built in the area.

Among other reasons, Smith questioned how the area could be rezoned when the 60-day period to file an objection had not ended. He asked the Department of Justice to re-examine the submission of the ordinance, which was submitted on March 9, 2012, and presented the mayor and city council with a copy of a letter from the Dept. of Justice, dated April 12, 2012.

“What is being annexed is not clear,” he said.