A company owned by Monroe businessman Eddie Hakim sued the Ouachita Parish Police Jury last week, claiming the parish is refusing to issue a building permit for two hotel developments without surface drainage.
Hakim’s company, I-20 Corridor Properties LLC, filed the lawsuit at Fourth Judicial District Court on Oct. 23.
The lawsuit pertained to acreage Hakim owns that runs along the northern front of Interstate 20, between Garrett Road and Millhaven Road.
Hakim’s company claims it discovered that the Police Jury went to his property and “secretly and without its permission dug ditches without any authority” from the company to do so.
In his lawsuit, Hakim asked the court to order the Police Jury to cover or fill in the two “unauthorized” ditches at the parish’s expense.
Hakim’s company says a buyer is ready to buy two lots on his property, though the buyer is waiting to obtain a building permit from Ouachita Parish. The lawsuit claimed the Police Jury has refused, in an “extortion-like” manner, to issue the building permit unless more ditches are built.
Assistant District Attorney Jay Mitchell, who serves as the Police Jury’s legal counsel, said the parish was not in a position to comment on the matter at this time.
When asked about the process of issuing building permits for new developments, Mitchell said parish ordinances required that developments altering the drainage on their own lots should have no effect on drainage, upstream or downstream, to neighboring properties. Those determinations are made by the parish’s consulting engineer.
“Depending on the size or type of a development, the parish’s site development ordinances requires that a drainage impact statement or development permit be obtained before doing work on a piece of property, particularly work that changes drainage,” Mitchell said.
According to Hakim’s lawsuit, building ditches on his two lots would devalue the properties and create “undesirable conditions such as a the presence of snakes and mosquitoes, all of which is preventing the purchaser of the two lots” from executing the sale. If sold, Hakim claims the two lots would lead to the construction of two hotels.
If he’s unable to execute the supposed sale, Hakim says he would lose a substantial amount of income and the local economy would lose a much-needed boost.
Hakim has long promised to develop the acreage north of I-20, beginning with his purchase of the property in 2005. At that time, he claimed he would build a large multi-screen movie theater with condominiums and a reflection pool. His development would generate $150 million in retail sales each year and create 1,500 jobs.
No such developments have taken place.
Monroe attorney Joe Guerriero, who is Hakim’s legal counsel, did not respond to The Ouachita Citizen’s requests for comment.
The first indication of work on the property occurred in 2015 when the Interstate 20 Economic Development Corporation’s board of directors pledged to build a $2.8-million boulevard through Hakim’s property. The I-20 board is a public entity, unrelated to Hakim’s company, I-20 Corridor Properties. The pair have been embroiled in a lawsuit since 2015, too.
At a recent I-20 board meeting, board members and engineers discussed the challenges facing Hakim’s properties in light of the new boulevard built there. The first challenge: city and parish ordinances required any new construction to be built a certain amount above the new boulevard to prevent roadway flooding. The second challenge: there are no permanent drainage channels to direct water to from Hakim’s property, since it is bounded at the north and south by a railroad and interstate, respectively.