BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA) — It could mean the end of the St. George incorporation effort. Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Baton Rouge General, and the Mall of Louisiana have all filed to be annexed into the city of Baton Rouge.
Baton Rouge General and the Mall of Louisiana filed in a joint petition, since the two properties adjoin across Bluebonnet Blvd.
The most significant of the three, as far as the proposed city of St. George is concerned, is the mall. St. George’s budget is based mainly on sales taxes, and at roughly $9 million per year, the mall would be its biggest individual source of funding.
In a post on the group’s Facebook page, the St. George organizing committee wrote that, “annexation of the Mall of Louisiana could likely invalidate the current petition process. This is nothing more than the Baton Rouge City Parish Government yet again trying to inject themselves into the legal, petition process and deny over 70,000 registered voters the right to vote. This is city government and politics at its very worst.”
“These are private businesses, they do have rights, and their rights are embodied within the law, and I think they’re making use of that right now,” noted Jane Patton, an organizer with Better Together Baton Rouge, which opposes the creation of St. George.
According to its proposed budget, St. George could handle the loss of revenue from the mall. The bigger problem is that annexation would substantially change the St. George’s boundaries from what are described on its petition, and the petition must be specific to get approval from the Secretary of State.
“(The hospitals and mall) really are part of what people already perceive to be the community of Baton Rouge,” Patton stated. “And I think, if anything, this is just requesting to make official, really, the inclusive borders of what people already consider to be Baton Rouge.”
There are bills in the legislature that could define how much time a group can take to collect signatures for a new city. If those pass and the St. George committee has to start over with its petition drive, it might not make the tight deadline.
The next step is for the Metro Council to vote on whether to extend the city limits to include the mall and the hospitals. No date has yet been set for those votes.
“And as far as we know, there’s never been any precedent for this sort of petition for annexation to be denied,” Patton added. “So we assume, hopefully, that the mall and the hospitals will have positive outcomes for their petitions.”
Leaders of the St. George organizing committee will discuss the annexation in detail for the first time tonight at a public meeting, which will be at 6:30 p.m. at Woodlawn Baptist Church, 5805 Jones Creek Road.