In The News › Forum bullish on more parish growth

Oct 3, 2009

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Economic Development, St. Tammany Parish

Forum bullish on more parish growth

Population to double by 2030, official says

Saturday, October 03, 2009
By Kia Hall Hayes, St. Tammany bureau
The Times-Picayune

Discussing strategies that St. Tammany Parish can use to harness and maximize growth, University of New Orleans economic development expert Ivan Miestchovich Jr. had admittedly little to offer in the way of advice to leaders of the steadily growing parish Friday.

“Job well-done and keep up the good work,” said Miestchovich, director of the university’s Institute for Economic Development and Real Estate Research.

At the first St. Tammany event hosted by the Bureau of Governmental Research, Miestchovich joined St. Tammany Parish Chief Administrative Officer William Oiler in discussing the parish’s growing population, which by 2030 is expected to nearly double to almost 500,000, Oiler said.

“The I-10/I-12 corridor will be the major corridor in the state for economic development,” Oiler said.

Miestchovich said diverse factors are driving the increase in population, which went from 145,000 in 1990 to almost 230,000 today, according to census figures. The growth of St. Tammany, which accounts for more than 40 percent of the growth of the north shore as a whole, became possible thanks to the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway and interstates 10 and 12.

He said a combination of high quality of life, the availability of land, a high-performing school district and a business-friendly environment, as well as a higher elevation, resulted in a steady and growing stream of new residents.

“A lot of people moved here because they liked the trees; they wanted to get away from concrete and asphalt,” Miestchovich said.

Looking ahead, Miestchovich said the north shore population will continue to grow horizontally from Mississippi to Baton Rouge.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of ‘if’; it’s a matter of ‘how good,’ “ he said of the growth.

Oiler said little had been done in terms of comprehensive planning or zoning before 2000, but St. Tammany Parish officials have recently taken several steps to address growth.

The parish in 2007 adopted the Unified Development Code, which calls for all parcels in the unincorporated areas to be rezoned, and is expected to complete the code within two years.

The rezoning, which will help officials manage the growth and development of both commercial and residential areas, “is something which can serve as a manual for staff and outside agencies,” Oiler said.

The parish also has been working to improve and expand its infrastructure to promote growth. Since Katrina, the parish has spent $50 million on road projects. As the area comes out of the current economic downturn in a couple of years, the parish will embark on about $50 million in additional projects, Oiler said.

“We’re not going to run out of transportation projects,” he said.

With the road work will come millions of dollars in drainage projects, as well as the acquisition of sewer and water programs and the development of solid waste programs serving the unincorporated areas.

Parish officials are continuing to find ways to improve the qualify of life for St. Tammany residents, Oiler said. As the economy improves, officials hope to move forward on University Center, a proposed consolidated college and public school campus near Lacombe, and officials in April broke ground on a children’s museum, an expansive facility planned for the end of Koop Drive near Mandeville.

Also under way are improvements to Camp Salmen near Slidell, a former Boy Scout camp that is scheduled to open with a nature trail and an information center next year.

“Again, we’re trying to take advantage of what we have,” Oiler said.

Oct 3, 2009

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Economic Development, St. Tammany Parish

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