HARAHAN, La. -- The clock is ticking on a controversial redevelopment plan for the old Colonial Golf and Country Club in Harahan. There could be a City Council vote on the matter as early as next month.
It's a battle between neighbors who want to preserve a way of life along the mature oaks and duck filled ponds of the now shuttered golf course and the realities of a city that needs new revenue to keep municipal services going.
Terri Valenti lives across the street from the property. She opposes plans to develop the 15 acres along Jefferson Highway.
"It's a quality of life issue," said Valenti. "That is the biggest concern. Right up there with it, would have to be flooding, decreased property values, traffic, crime, all those things."
Mayor Vinnie Mosca said there's also an upside, more than $1 million a year for the city.
"This project offers the opportunity to bring in much tax dollars to our city," said Mosca. "Money that can go to police, fire, recreation, street repair."
Businessman John Georges said he and his partner Wayne Ducote want to build one of the finest retail developments in Jefferson Parish on only the front portion of the Colonial property.
"Very high end project with great supermarket and drug store and small retail," said Georges. "It's not going to be a big development."
Georges offers the middle 40 acres of the 88 acre site as permanent green space.
"I've offered to spend another year trying to find an entity to make a park out of the property so we don't have to do any more development on the property. My vision would be to have nature walks through there, where the public could walk through it and allow for green space to absorb heavy rains in the rainy seasons."
Georges also said he has no plans to develop the back of the property. He and his business partner plan to keep it for their own private use.
Right now, the property is zoned residential.
Harahan City Council Member Cindy Murray said the process of granting Georges the zoning variance he needs is moving too fast. Her home backs up to the property.
"I don't have all the paperwork," said Murray. "I don't have all the studies that need to go along with it. I can't possibly make an informed decision without the work that I need. We're still waiting on a sewer study."
Regardless, Murray said any commercial development on the Colonial site is not very popular in her district.
"Right now, I have gotten one or two people who say, yes, they'd like to have it, but the overwhelming majority says no."
Mosca said there is much support for the project in Harahan overall. He claims only 40 out of 9,820 families in the city are opposed to the development.
While he doesn't have a vote to cast, Mosca is encouraging his city council to vote the project up or down.
"The longer that we delay and defer, the fewer vendors, quality vendors we're going to get."
Meanwhile, homeowners like Valenti are calling on the mayor and other Harahan leaders to protect them from commercial development on the largest undeveloped tract of land on the east bank of Jefferson Parish.
"We don't feel like our voice has been heard at all, and we feel like this is old-time, dirty politics," she said.
Barring any delays, council members could vote on the Colonial development at their next meeting, Oct. 16.