Morgan City development district proposed

Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin


A state legislator is working to create a Morgan City Development District, which would mirror Berwick’s district, with a bill in the upcoming legislative session that would allow the city to develop its own subdivision.
State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, is working to draft a bill to be introduced in the upcoming legislative session, which convenes March 10, that would create the Morgan City Development District. The Legislature created the Berwick Development District in 1995.
Morgan City Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi said he approached Jones six or eight months ago about ways to improve the city.
“I approached Sam about what tools are we going to need in place to where if we get this backwater levee problem solved, we can go in and try and to develop something like the Hellenic property,” Grizzaffi said. The city will need a development district in order to be able for the city to develop its own residential development, Grizzaffi said.
However, Grizzaffi said the city’s first option would be to look for a developer or possibly landowners to start a residential development. “The city getting involved in a subdivision is going to be the last case scenario, but if we had to do it, this would be the tool that we need to put in place to do it,” Grizzaffi said.
The Morgan City Development District would allow for the recovery of industrial areas or individual properties that have gone dormant, which allows the district to find ways or grants to keep those properties from becoming blighted, Jones said. The district would also have the authority to levy taxes if it chose to, Jones said.
Forming a development district allows a community to do all types of new development including industrial development, parks, and housing, but funding is always the issue as to whether those projects are done, Damon Robison, Berwick town councilman and development district commissioner, said. Robison has been a commissioner since the development district’s inception.
“The project that we did, the Renwick Subdivision, continues to pay dividends to the town in the form of ad valorem taxes and increased population,” Robison said.
Grizzaffi said creating a development district is part of keeping his campaign promise to get more housing in Morgan City. Having the district will allow the city to apply for business grants and, if the city ever wanted to, build its own residential development, something similar to what Berwick did with Renwick Subdivision, Grizzaffi said.
The development district is a “mechanism” to provide for all aspects of economic development, Jones said.
The mayor would appoint a commission with the council’s approval to oversee the development district.
Jones gave an example of how businesses could benefit from forming a development district. “Let’s say on the riverfront somewhere there’s a small fabricating shop that’s been there, but it’s closed since the late ’80s or the ’90s. But now, with all the stuff going on with deep water, somebody needs to open up a small fabricating shop,” Jones said.
The shop may have five or six welders, “but they can get the quality jobs tax credit plus the enterprise zone tax reductions or maybe be relieved of paying sales taxes for a year or two,” Jones said. The development district would allow a business to apply for those tax credits or reductions, he said.

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