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Stop Sprawl
Fall 2000 Sprawl Report

States at a Glance: Louisiana

Plan Baton Rouge
Riverfront Park, Native Trees Enhance Capital
Willow Ridge
(St. Charles Parish)
Crime Pays for Wetland Developers

Plan Baton Rouge
Riverfront Park, Native Trees Enhance Capital

In the mid-1990s, Baton Rouge was going through some hard times. The collapse of oil prices had hurt the region's economy, and downtown Baton Rouge was rife with vacant lots and unused buildings. But in 1998, the city embarked on an ambitious plan to redevelop its downtown.

After hiring noted new-urbanist planners Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, the town held an open forum to solicit ideas from the community. The response was excellent. Now "Plan Baton Rouge," which will remake 550 acres within the downtown area, is taking shape.

The plan recommends making downtown more friendly to pedestrians and more human in scale. Wider crosswalks, new street furnishings and more trees and landscaping will all be used to make the area more walkable. Along with pedestrian improvements, planners hope to improve the balance and flow of cars and people in the area.

As the capital of Louisiana, Baton Rouge has thousands of state workers. One of the keys to the redevelopment plan is making the downtown area more diverse by adding shopping, recreation and housing. Baton Rouge also has some beautiful civic buildings, including the state capitol, in its downtown. The creation of a 22-acre riverfront park will enhance the public spaces around the capitol building. Planners also hope to add native trees and small parks to further beautify the surroundings.

Though construction is just beginning, the project has already created a lot of excitement in the city. New businesses are moving in, property values are rising and the residents of Baton Rouge are looking forward to a rejuvenated downtown where they can live, work and play.

Willow Ridge
(St. Charles Parish)
Crime Pays for Wetland Developers

If persistent and savvy, most developers find a way to get the permits they need to develop a piece of land. But a few bad apples just break the law.

In 1999, the Rathborne Land Company -- developers of the Willow Ridge subdivision -- were fined $620,000 and required to donate land to settle a lawsuit brought against them by the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. According to the suit, the developers illegally filled in fragile bayous and built an entire subdivision in a swamp.

To prepare for construction, Rathborne cleared and dug in the area without receiving proper permits, and then filled in a wetland and two small bayous. The developer then built houses on top of parts of the swamp. Though they were successfully sued over the development, the settlement allows Rathborne to continue building homes in an area previously identified as one of the most sensitive and diverse habitats in Louisiana.

In addition to its egregious destruction of fragile wetlands, the development places people far from where they work, shop and recreate. No public parks exist where this development is located and the school system is currently trying to determine how it will obtain the millions of dollars needed for expansion.

States at a Glance | Introduction | Resources | Acknowledgments

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