Commission denies plan for 40-acre Port Manchac residential project

Commission rejects revised plan for Port Manchac development project

PONCHATOULA, La. (WVUE) - A commission designed to boost Port Manchac development killed the plan for a 40-acre residential project Tuesday (July 9), despite the developer’s promise to be environmentally friendly.

The port is an industrial area nestled in the Manchac Swamp featuring interstate, rail and water access and only one tenant -- Bayou Diesel Services. But, developer Terry Jones has bigger ideas for the area.

“We want to bring something special in collaboration with the community,” Jones said.

Jones pitched his idea to the commission over a year ago, which he initially envisioned as a 140-acre marina condo complex in an area once known for towering cypress trees. On Tuesday, Jones proposed a scaled-back version of the village, dropping 100 acres from the original blueprint.

Despite the changes, Jones still faced stern opposition from Kim Coates and other members of the Save Our Manchac Coalition.

Regardless of how environmentally friendly Jones promises to be, some Manchac residents like Amanda Byrd, believe the condos would be harmful to the land.

“Dropping 2,000 people in that area will destroy it. Nature didn’t destroy that, forced people did,” Byrd said.

However, not everyone was against the idea.

"We have multiple people here that oppose the village, but we also have 1,800 signatures,” Coates said.

The port commission considered two propositions Tuesday, one to approve the village concept and another to kill it. In the end, three out of the five commissioners voted against the project, killing the measure.

James Nelson is one of the two commission members who voted to approve the plan, citing it as good way to develop a site which he and other supporters say has been under utilized for decades.

“This port has been in existence for 54 years and it’s never developed any maritime shipping, never,” Nelson said.

The commission killed another proposal to build a battery plant at Port Manchac 18 months ago. Now with the vote against the village, commissioners are back to square one.

“We have 40 acres of prime real estate on the water and there’s been no return of investment,” Nelson said.

But, there are still three other potential projects in the works, all unnamed industrial suitors. In any outcome, people who care about the Manchac area will undoubtedly be watching.

“Manshac is a very sensitive area, it’s storm surge for the whole north shore [and] in Baton Rouge, that land bridge is important,” Coates said.

According to Gary Lagrange, Manchac Port consultant and former head of the Port of New Orleans, if a nearby access waterway was dredged to a depth of 10 to 12 feet, it would be more attractive for potential industrial developers who are now considering locating there.

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