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Sep. 11, 2012

Ian Somerhalder Tries to Save Land Slated for Industrial Development

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

A tract of land along Bayou Lacombe, below Interstate 12 in Lacombe, La., could be making entertainment headlines, as actor and philanthropist Ian Somerhalder will be making a last effort to acquire the land for the Ian Somerhalder Foundation’s ISF Sanctuary.

According to a report by The Times-Picayune, the actor will appear at the St. Tammany Parish Council meeting set to take place in a few days to try to convince the parish council to deny the zoning change, which would allow local businessman Chris Jean to develop a waste transfer station and an industrial park on the 198-acre parcel Jean has the rights to purchase.

The property is currently owned by John and Valerie Van Vracken.  IESI Corp. would build the waste transfer facility on 28 acres off I-12, to the northwest of Lacombe, while an additional 100 acres would be developed into a business or industrial park. An earlier report by The Times-Picayune mentioned plans of creating a business park on the land in the vicinity of Lacombe and erecting warehouses beyond that. Jean has a deed restriction on development on 70 acres along Bayou Lacombe to preserve it.

By contrast, Somerhalder would like to build the Ian Somerhalder Foundation Animal Sanctuary, “a haven for outcasts and misfits,” going beyond the typical animal shelter to create an animal shelter for abandoned and abused animals that would pair them with troubled teens from across the country, focusing on bullies, thus giving all a chance to rehabilitate themselves by giving them “the opportunity to demonstrate their true potential within their daily lives, a healing and educational journey side by side (that) has the power to manifest changes in perspective.”

The foundation estimates the cost for the entire project at around $5 million, of which $150,000 would be the initial cost of the land. In addition to the animal sanctuary, the Ian Somerhalder Foundation would build a youth education center that would be home to summits on issues such as wildlife and land conservation and clean energy. A sustainable farm could also be established on the site. Somerhalder was in talks with the owners previously, but the foundation failed to raise the necessary funds in time to make an offer before Jean did.

Somerhalder’s chances of succeeding are not promising, as the St. Tammany Parish Zoning Commission and the St. Tammany Planning Commission approved Jean’s plans in July. The developer also reached an agreement with the Concerned Citizens of Lacombe, a group that fought the project in its initial form, citing concerns that the waste treatment plant was too close to Louisiana 434, the main highway into Lacombe. Furthermore, the Ian Somerhalder Foundation’s monthly update mentions that “the initial land we had our heart and eyes on has fallen through and we are on the search for a new location.”

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Photo courtesy of the Ian Somerhalder Foundation’s Facebook profile

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