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Council to vote on annexation petitions

BY KRISTEN MOSBRUCKER

Staff writer

Most of the St. George-area businesses seeking annexation into Baton Rouge are scheduled to go before the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council for a vote Wednesday, with a total assessed value of $16 million.

These are businesses in the unincorporated area that voters in 2019 agreed to turn into the new city of St. George. But incorporation is on hold amid legal challenges.

On Wednesday, Metro Council members will consider petitions from property owners including contractor Turner Industries, an affiliate of Stirling Properties, the Louisiana School Employees Retirement System, and affiliated businesses that own much of United Plaza, a corporate complex of office buildings just east of Interstate 10 and Essen Lane.

Attorney Charles Landry was retained by all the property owners who submitted annexation requests so far. Landry also has an equity stake in United Plaza properties.

Landry was involved in efforts in 2014 to annex several major commercial centers out of the proposed St. George area into the Baton Rouge city limits.

Those properties include much of the Mall of Louisiana, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Siegen Lane Marketplace and Baton Rouge General's Bluebonnet campus. Other properties Baton Rouge annexed are the Costco store near Interstate 12 and Airline Highway, and L'Auberge Baton Rouge.

A separate annexation petition filed by an affiliate of Lipsey's, a wholesale firearm distributor, will be introduced on Wednesday but won't be voted on until Jan. 22, records show.

The Lipsey's headquarters,

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which sits nearby I-10 and Exchequer Drive, may be annexed into Baton Rouge by virtue of its proximity to the Mall of Louisiana. The assessed value of Lipsey's was $142,490 in 2019 and its market value is $949,933, records with the East Baton Rouge Parish Assessor's Office show. The property taxes are a fraction of the assessed value.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development sent a letter of no objection to the city of Baton Rouge, enabling the city to annex a section of the I-10 right of way from Siegen Lane toward the east so it can reach the Lipsey's property.

If the Metro Council approves all of the requests as ordinances, those aren't slated to go into effect until the 30th day after being passed.

During that 30-day window, any resident may file an appeal with the state District Court and a trial judge would be expected to offer a judgment within five days.

Property taxes in the unincorporated parish are lower on average, so annexation into city limits would come with a tax increase for the property owners.

Andrew Murrell, organizer for St. George, said he could not comment on any pending or potential litigation involving the organizers.

Murrell did suggest it is unusual for property owners to seek annexation into highertax situations without gaining access to additional services.

Baton Rouge can accept annexation petitions only from areas that share a common border with the city. The process is simpler for businesses because there are no registered voters living in the office buildings. For a successful request to annex a subdivision, 50% plus one of the registered voters in the neighborhood must be in favor of the request.

Businesses in United Plaza, a corporate complex of office buildings just east of Interstate 10 and Essen Lane, are among those wishing to be annexed into Baton Rouge.

FILE PHOTO

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