Lake Terrace and Lake Oaks residents voice concerns over Pontchartrain Beach development

Published: May. 20, 2023 at 3:10 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The gym at St. Pius X Catholic School in the Lake Vista neighborhood was filled Saturday (May 20) with concerned residents, many of them eager to voice opposition to the latest proposal to redevelop the waterfront property along Lake Pontchartrain.

“We’re not anti-development,” said Ashley Haspel, president of the Lake Terrace Property Owners Association. “But we do not like what these developers are offering.”

Haspel says that since its inception, the plan to revitalize the beach has left more questions than answers.

“All they have is a pretty picture to show us,” she said. “They cannot give us any concrete security plan, trash plan or anything else.”

Residents such as Harold Matherne made his case before the Lakefront Management Authority and says he would rather see the beach turned into a public space -- much like the rest of Lakeshore Drive -- and not a place where people must pay to get in.

“This has got more of a theme to make it an entertainment venue, and so that brings other concerns,” said Matherne, a member of the Lake Oaks Crime Board. “With the number of crowds that would occur there and traffic and security.”

The LMA plans to lease out the recreational area to the Ponchartrain Beach Foundation.

“This is not a profit-making business,” said PBF chairman Guy Williams. “And if, by chance, there’s any positive cash flow, it can’t go back to the foundation. It has to go back to the beach.”

Williams said under the best-case scenario, the development would take about five years to finish. But first he said he is working to appease any reservations that Lake Terrace or Lake Oaks residents might have.

“We have a security consultant,” Williams said. “We’ve heard about litter. We have a litter expert who’s going to talk about waste management.”

But with the development in the works now for years, many neighboring residents said there still isn’t enough clarity to get them to sign off.

“And that’s OK,” Matherne said. “You don’t always have an answer for every question asked. But then there really wasn’t any follow-up to answer what was asked and about how they envisioned to address these things.

“I stand here today and I go, ‘You know, I just don’t know if I can trust what they’re saying.’”

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