The meeting focused on a liquor license debate. Again, several property condemnation hearings were discussed and deferred.
The atmosphere in council chambers was light, with few conversations from the small crowd on hand. The chambers were less than half full as the meeting began.
The meeting was called to order by the council president John Ieyoub, and Councilman Rodney Geyen gave the invocation. The pledge was led by a ranking Lake Charles police officer. Roll call followed with councilpersons Stuart Wheatherford, Vice-President Mark Eckard, Rodney Geyen, and Mrs. Luvertha August, all present at this time. Next, Mr. Ieyoub submitted a motion to approve the minutes from the Oct. 19, 2022 council meeting, which passed 6-0. Councilman Craig Marks arrived a few minutes after the approval of the minutes during the public hearings.
There were a few items deferred, both for the appointment of chairs to review bids for recycling projects for water meters and the lids and boxes.
There were a couple of appointments, and Mr. Wheatherford accepted the chair to review the annual hauling and disposal of wastewater solids used by public works. Next, Mr. Ieyoub took the chair to review the bids for the Nelson Rd Extension and Bridge Utility Improvements.
Public hearings on condemnations and demolitions
There were several ordinances for demolition during the public hearings.
305 Enterprise Blvd., the Offices of KZWA radio. Mr. Morgan, the city attorney, advised the council that proof of service was completed and that this item had previously been on the agenda and was deferred at the owners’ request. Mrs. August said,”… I personally had the privilege of looking at this and it is in bad shape; I give it 15-30 [days].” This passed 6-0.
28162 Hinton St. had speakers. Mr. Morgan advised that proof of service was done through a curator. Mrs. August listed some of the problems with the property. Requested 15-15 days. Passed 6-0.
There was a deferral request by Mr. Morgan of 30 days to December 21, 2022. There were no objections, and the item was deferred.
Planning and zoning updates
There were two items on the agenda due to decisions on the City Planning and Zoning Commission. The first was a variance concerning the establishment’s buffer zone and closing times. Adam Johnson represented the owners, and after some discussion, an agreement was made on the closing times and when alcohol was stopped being served. The other issue, one to subdivide a tract of land into development tracts. The approval was appealed by Councilman Eckard. After a discussion with the owner and the city planner, the variance was granted 7-0.
The most discussed was a decision by the Planning and zoning commission, which denied a request for a variance for establishing a pool hall with a liquor license in a strip mall that abuts residential homes. This is the appeal by the applicant, Mr. Poulard, who was the first to speak.
Mr. Poulard stated he felt the decision was biased due to the president of Planning and Zoning, Mr. Alvin Joseph, having a person close to him in the matter that was before them. Joseph is also the President of the Lake Charles Chapter of the NAACP. He stated, “…to be honest, I really didn’t like how that hearing went; the President of the Zoning Board, he kinda opened up with something I felt was a bit personal issue being kinda biased, being that someone close to him that had dealt with something that happened when someone else tried to open a bar.”
He then outlined other comments made by Joseph which insinuated that problems come from “people hanging out in the parking lot.” He outlined all the steps they took as far as, putting the ad in the paper and talking to neighboring businesses, and people in the neighborhood, who were looking for something new in Lake Charles. All this with no pushback, and all were excited at the prospect of “a place” to go. The business owners were also excited about the additional foot traffic in the area for their businesses. He named several businesses that had residences near them that served alcohol and didn’t serve food. He stated, ” I’m just trying to see what the differences are between them and me.”
The floor opened for questions from the council members. Mr. Marks asked if the owner would make some concessions,” …or if you didn’t get your liquor license first…a trial period until we can come to a compromise with the other residents and give you time to prove to the residents that you’re not out-of-pocket, I guess, a good faith gesture?” Mr. Poulard explained that he opened without a liquor license just in case he didn’t get approved. Mrs. August next asked how they would regulate underage drinking by 18-20 year olds entering the establishment if alcohol was permitted. Mr. Poulard informed her if alcohol is served, the minimum age for entry would be 21. Mr. Harvey asked if there was any merit to Mr. Poulard’s concerns about the other bars, but Mr. Morgan didn’t have specifics. The city planner explained that each situation is an individual one and has different variables.
Mr. Ieyoub brought some levity to the discussion stating, “one of those is a bad example; it’s in my district, and I get calls complaining all the time; that’s a bad example.” The room broke out in laughter, and everyone laughed hard. Mr. Marks asked the city planner, if the “sale of alcohol” brought us here tonight? Doug Burguieres, said, “the alcohol is a different measurement of requirements…this is an issue of the use of the property as a bar..which has additional requirements.”
The first speaker in opposition was Joseph said it is personal, stating the year the ordinance was introduced and the requirements of a 300′ buffer for residential areas. Mr. Joseph noted that at 95, his mother has been a “good citizen” and has lived there for 51 years. He stated that the church there “boomed.” He wasn’t against developing business, but his concern is, “when you add alcohol, I know what happens; we’ve all seen what happens…” He made it known that he was against the sale of alcohol there at any point. He asked that they deny this request for a pool hall with a bar. Mr. Marks again spoke about a trial period in which both sides could come together. Mrs. August expressed concerns over betting on pool (gaming is legal here) and dice games and some of the bad things that are associated with them can happen, but stated that she supported a trial period. She then, like Mr. Joseph, went on a rail against alcohol and what happens if it is involved. She supported the applicant’s claim on several occasions when she spoke about how other residents, including herself, have to put up with bars in their residential areas.
Mr. Weatherford and Mr. Ergroous clarified how long the applicants must wait after denial; it’s one year. Mr. Marks wanted to get a discussion between the parties. Mr. Harvey expressed concerns that young business owners are being discouraged by the city due to the rejections and that decisions can’t be made based on past events. Young people that want to open businesses should be given a chance to succeed. “I would like to sit down with both. Tonight to decide a vote would be unfair to the applicant and the residents…move to defer.” After discussions with Mr. Morgan, a vote for deferral until the December 21 meeting passed 7-0.
The last item was the approval of additions to a residence, passing 7-0.
The final actions all passed 7-0 with little discussion.
- Ordinance to accept the lower bid on the 1st Avenue Trail North of broad St. to Interstate 10
- Removing sludge from the water treatment plant.
- Allowing a 15% increase for a change order for r S. McNeese Drainage improvements.
- Enlarging the boundaries of the city of Lake Charles by 6+ acres on Country Club Rd.
- The Councilman of District G was assigned to the newly acquired 6+ acres on Country Club Rd.
- Enlarging boundaries of the city of Lake Charles by 47+ acres on Corbina Rd.
- Assigning Zoning Classification of Mixed Use of the 47* acres on Corbina Rd.
- Councilman of District F assigned to the newly acquired 47+ acres on Corbina Rd.
- Amend the ordinance to allow temporary banners or flags for the grand opening of new or the re-establishment of a business
The final ordinance for final action involved the agreement negotiated between the city and parish. The Development Agreement with Horseshoe Lake Charles. The agreement is 4.2% for the first $200 million of revenue, then a sliding scale which decreases the percentage by .1% for each additional $10 million earned above $200 million. Mr. Morgan read the ordinance into the record.
This is the ordinance:
“An ordinance approving the terms of the Second Amended and Restated Development Agreement (Horseshoe Lake Charles) between the Calcasieu Parish Gaming Revenue District (District) and authorizing the Mayor of the City of Lake Charles to support the execution of said Development Agreement on such terms.”
Mrs. August and Mr. Marks both asked for explanations from Mr. Morgan on why the amount of taxable revenue decreases as the profits go up. First, Mr. Morgan explained the sliding scale. “I don’t understand the logic of it..” said Mrs. August. Next, Mr. Morgan spoke about the recognition of the initial investment made, and then Mr. Eckard reiterated the breakdown after Mr. Marks asked: “Are they working on the premise that a smaller percentage of a greater amount is equal to the same thing?” The mayor then spoke about the negotiations and the discussions about more capital investment and amenities to be added, so the sliding scale was accepted and encouraged capital investment. He also indicated that without capital investment, they would not reach the $200 million dollar threshold. It passed 7-0.
Most of these resolutions were for condemnations of structures, with the remaining having to do with bids for purchasing equipment for Public Works.
- A final resolution authorized a special event permit for the SW La. District Livestock Show and Parade.
- There was an agenda supplement to allow Entergy to supply temporary power to the Port Wonder and Parking Garage projects.
- Mr. Ieyoub advised of the ordinances for introduction by consent to be read into the record the following morning in council chambers at 9 AM.
The meeting was adjourned.
November 16, 2022 meeting agenda can be seen here
Why are the casinos taxed at a low rate that decreases as they make more money?
Should a public official recuse him or herself from a Discussion and/or vote that involves a family member?
With so many residents living with businesses around, should we make exceptions for certain people when others deal with the same issues?