Act 326 will Provide New Development Tools for Opelousas and SLP

Brandy Ledet Development

Government and development leaders are hopeful that groundbreaking legislation signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards will provide the impetus and tools needed to begin significant revitalization of the heart of Opelousas and an economic boost across the area.

Act No. 326 of the regular session of the legislature, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Boudreaux and Rep. Dustin Miller, amends legislation that created the Opelousas Downtown Development District in 2015 to expand the district boundaries, set new guidelines for appointment to its governing board, and modify its taxing authority.

“Political leaders and concerned citizens worked for several months to put together this legislation,” according to Sen. Boudreaux. “It provides new tools necessary for Opelousas to use its existing assets to best advantage, and to open new opportunities. Downtown Opelousas has always held a special place for me, and it is important that we bring it back as one of the centerpieces of Acadiana.”

Creation of the new district is also “a tangible demonstration that we have the political will and civic vision to move all of our communities and the entire parish forward,” he said.

“Downtown has so much history and so much potential,” in the view of Rep. Miller. “Our goal is to make it a place once again filled with thriving businesses. This initiative is the important first step toward doing that.

“A prosperous, vibrant, and progressive parish seat is important in itself, Opelousas is also a centerpiece for parishwide development,” he said, noting especially that its location at the crossroads of I-49 and U.S. 190 makes it, “quite literally, central to economic planning and development.”

“Creation of the new district is also “a tangible demonstration that we have the political will and civic vision to move all of our communities and the entire parish forward.” Senator Gerald Boudreaux
St. Landry Parish President Bill Fontenot praised the leaders and citizens who have worked together on the new district. “Collaborative efforts such as this are absolutely essential to long-term progress,” he said. “Downtown Opelousas is the heart of St. Landry Parish, it must reflect the health and vitality of the parish as a whole.”

Opelousas mayor Reggie Tatum reflected the sentiment, noting that teamwork among state and local government leaders, business owners, civic leaders, and everyday citizen is required “to develop … our downtown into a more vital, refreshing, economical, and productive area.”

As originally created, the district essentially only encompassed the central historic district of downtown. The new legislation, expands the district into the form of a cross, incorporating midtown Opelousas and extending along the major highways coming into it.

Under Act 326, the district would continue to be governed by a seven-member commission appointed by legislators, the parish president, the Opelousas mayor, the city council, Vision St Landry and St. Landry Economic Development (SLED). The SLED director or his or her designee will serve as interim director of the refurbished commission.

The act gives the development district commission the authority to create smaller economic development districts in Opelousas. They would have “all of the power and authority granted to economic development districts generally,” specifically including “the power to levy taxes.”

Implementation of the small special taxing districts will require a legal process that includes public hearings and citizen comment.

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As a Quasi-governmental entity to promote economic development, the St. Landry Parish Economic Development’s (SLED) primary mission is to provide leadership in economic and community development that facilitates growth opportunities leading to enhanced prosperity for St. Landry Parish businesses, communities, its clients and youth.