Civic center hotel plans OK’d, TEDA told

Site plans for the new four-story, 143-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel next to the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center have been approved by the Terrebonne Parish Planning and Zoning Department, according to Mark Crisci, executive vice president of hotel developer K Partners Hospitality Group.

K Partners is expecting to break ground on the hotel in fall 2008. The facility would open in late 2009.

Plans for the 104,453-square-foot hotel include a 5,000-square-foot meeting room with a breakout room, restaurant, lounge, boardroom and 177 parking spots.

The Terrebonne Economic Development Authority received the update at its regular board meeting last week. TEDA has been the lead government agency working with K Partners on the project. K Partners purchased parish-owned land next to the Civic Center to construct the hotel.

In other business, TEDA passed a resolution last week opposing a bill in the current session of the Louisiana House of Representatives exempting several professions in the state from paying local occupational license taxes.

TEDA receives half of the revenue from Terrebonne Parish’s occupational license tax to fund the agency’s activities. The exemption would reduce the tax collected by $100,000 a year. The bill would relieve lawyers, accountants, printers, physicians, dentists, veterinarians, architects, chemists, engineers, bacteriologists, oculists, osteopaths, lithographers and chiropodists from having to pay the tax.

The bill is being cosponsored by Hunter Greene and Franklin Foil from the Baton Rouge area and Neil Abramson from New Orleans. All three are attorneys.

TEDA board member Darrin Guidry, publisher of the Tri-Parish Times, abstained from voting on the resolution.

Also at the meeting, New Orleans attorney Louis Koerner offered to work as counsel for the TEDA board free of charge.

Houma attorney James Dagate currently serves as the board’s legal counsel. The Terrebonne Parish District Attorney’s Office charges TEDA $100 an hour for legal services, which is a reduced rate compared to other public bodies using attorney services, Dagate said.

Koerner said he owns a home in New Orleans but lives half the time in Houma. He said he is offering to work free because of the business contacts he could make working with the TEDA board.

“It seems like a trivial amount of time and effort compared to the benefits,” Koerner said about working for TEDA. “Corporate law is hard to break into because people have established relationships.”

Dagate has worked as TEDA counsel for around a year. He said he spends five to 10 hours a week working for the agency, but TEDA’s activities are increasing.

“I wouldn’t refer to it as trivial because TEDA is in the inception of its activity,” Dagate said. “The board members have told me they are satisfied. I would hope to be able to continue.”

TEDA was formed in 2005.