Really?? Who Buys In Larkin’s “Esplanade?”

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by Elliott Stonecipher

Layers-of-onion2It’s been a month. A revealing one.

On June 10th, five Shreveport City Council members – Michael Corbin, Sam Jenkins, Jeff Everson, Rose McCulloch and Oliver Jenkins – overruled our Metropolitan Planning Commission so real estate developer and Bossier City Councilman Tim Larkin could get busy with lot-selling and home-building in a prime corridor of the Hwy. 3132 Extension to the Port of Caddo-Bossier.

These local pols have worked overtime since their votes trying to sell constituents the story that their votes were not meant to kill the Extension. Few, if any, are buying the hooey. Most notable among the reasons is that three houses were suddenly underway after the meeting.

When Larkin was asked by the Council chairman that day, and I’m quoting, “If I were going to go out there this afternoon and start counting houses, how many would I count?” Larkin’s response was, “In Esplanade? To date?” Let’s see. We have eleven permits and $44,000,000 worth of houses under construction.” The simple, truthful answer was “2” – the number of houses then in any stage of construction. Permits aren’t starts, of course, and the two houses underway are worth a mere fraction of $44,000,000.

Of course, Larkin also says he supports building the Extension … right through his development.

‘Believe the Developer?

Hooey is the suspect, too, when many people interested in this matter ask an obvious question: why would anyone buy a lot, much less build a house, in Larkin’s development? Can the Extension and Larkin’s Esplanade co-exist within his development, and do those buying lots in there actually believe that’s possible? We believe the two images below provide the answer. (Click on the images to increase their size.)

Right-Hand-Bayou-Pierre-07082014
Route Hugging Bayou-Pierre
Left-Hand-Property-Line-07082014
Route Hugging Property Line
These images rely on aerial photography taken about a year ago, and feature:

(a) the red-lined, city-owned 16-acre tract,

(b) the yellow-lined original Larkin land, about 100 acres below (in these images) Bayou Pierre and 37 acres above,

(c) bolded blue line Extension corridor options,

(d) Flournoy-Lucas Road running across the top of the images, and

(e) Twelve Oaks at the center-to-top right, with The Glen and Acadiana Place top-left.

With the image sufficiently increased, the developer’s bridge across Bayou-Pierre can be seen in the center of the image, along with the roadway built from the bridge, up and into Flournoy-Lucas Road.

The left-hand image shows the original corridor route drawn by the Stage 0 Feasibility Study engineering consultants in February / March 2012, before politics kicked-in, with a thus unpolluted engineering team drawing what its members knew was appropriate. As is obvious, the recommended route guts Larkin’s development.

About one month after the left-hand image was submitted to our highway department, LA DOTD, its Project Scoping Engineer also submitted her politics-free route alternative. It is not shown here because it is very much like the left-hand image. If you move the left-hand route slightly to the viewer’s right – putting the highway directly over Larkin’s bridge – you have that image.

When this top engineer on the project emailed her route to her DOTD boss on April 19, 2012, at 8:50 AM, she added this to the email:

“Even though the second version takes out Larkin’s bridge I think it is the best option because it will avoid impacts to Twelve Oaks.”

Now, the right-hand image is the one political heavyweights dictated be drawn for Larkin, now known as “Larkin’s route.” As inarguably proven by the accompanying emails from the players, it was ordered-up after the highway department’s Deputy Secretary took over. In a period of weeks, he ordered these engineers to move the highway corridor further and further away from Larkin’s bridge, and move it they did, almost completely out of Larkin’s land.

Here is the question to those buying lots to build / live in Esplanade: Are you really OK with living in Shreveport’s most expensive residential enclave with a four-lane highway running through it? After all, given its “compound curves” and implicit damage to existing Twelve Oaks homeowners, the “Larkin route” won’t happen. Where does that locate the highway? Is this, then, really about being fine with expropriation?

It is urgently important to note, too, that the public never saw the left-hand image developed by the engineering consultants or the one by the Project Scoping Engineer. Existing homeowners’ rights under federal law to see and debate these alternatives was deliberately and provably scuttled by LA DOTD and NLCOG. Those facts are the basis of the Coalition’s federal court lawsuit.

The Answer to the Question

The question I posed at the start was, “Why would anyone buy a lot, much less build a house, in Larkin’s development?” We believe the answer is that no one would unless they are being told – and believe – there will never be a Hwy. 3132 Extension. Who really thinks this developer is legitimately at work trying to make millions of dollars and save the Extension? He has been working on this development alone since 2006, precisely where he knew, and public records showed, the Extension would someday be built.

Salesman?
Salesman?

In short, certain public officials assured Larkin they would kill Extension for him. Likewise, and years earlier, Twelve Oaks developers were assured by a few such officials that they were safe developing dead within the original 1992 preferred corridor route.

The Coalition, just as the rest of our community, continues to look to the groups who supported the highway at last month’s City Council meeting. The Chamber of Commerce, Committee of 100, North Louisiana Economic Partnership and – particularly – the Port of Caddo-Bossier must take the point in this continuing effort.

If these groups back their words with action, perhaps we can turn-back the work of a couple of dozen who are acting at the expense of hundreds of thousands.

Elliott Stonecipher
Finish 3132 Coalition

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