Acadiana Business

Montesanos selling proposed Chateau Mirage acreage

by Leslie Turk

"We've transitioned into land sellers," says John Montesano's son Bruce.

The son of longtime Lafayette State Farm agent John Montesano confirms that the family has abandoned plans to develop a residential golf course community on a large tract of land just off Johnston Street near the Mall of Acadiana and now wants to sell the acreage.

As ABiz reported Monday, the City-Parish Council will introduce - at the Montesano family's request - an ordinance to terminate and dissolve the Chateau Mirage Community Development District, created by ordinance in 2007 to help fund public improvements at the proposed Chateau Mirage development. At one time plans called for a $70 million championship golf course and gated residential community on 300 acres. The acreage is in the vicinity of Chateau Mirage patio homes and Chateau Mirage apartment complex at 1630 Rue De Belier, both of which the Montesano family developed. In 2002 the Montesanos also developed at a cost of $15 million and later sold the nearby Chateau des Lions, an upscale 180-unit apartment complex at 6000 Johnston St.

Just months before the 2007 ordinance passed, the city and contentious developer were still at it. Read more about those negotiations in this May 2007 ABiz story.

John Montesano at the site of his Lafayette development near the Mall of Acadiana in 2006;
at the time, plans included a residential golf course community

After years of battles with John Montesano over road improvements and drainage issues at the site - challenges that escalated into the insurance/developer threatening to sue local government - the CDD ordinance was approved in September 2007. CDDs are independent districts created as an alternative method to manage and finance basic services for community development through the levy and collection of special assessments. According to the ordinance up for introduction, the Chateau Mirage LLC originally intended that the district would "finance, fund, plan, establish, acquire, construct or reconstruct, enlarge, extend, equip, operate and maintain systems; (ii) water distribution and transmission and wastewater collection and transmission facilities; (iii) roadwork (iv) related incidental costs; (v) funding a reserve for the bonds, if required and (vi) paying the issuance costs therefore..."

The September 2007 ordinance called for the creation of a board of supervisors, called the district board, to act on behalf of the district, but neither Chateau Mirage LLC nor the district board have ever taken any action on behalf of the district. No public financing for maintenance or improvement of services to the property was ever utilized, according to Tuesday's introductory ordinance.

"We've transitioned into land sellers instead of land developers," says Montesano's son Bruce, a State Farm agent in Breaux Bridge. Neither Bruce nor his father could be reached in time for Monday's story. "The district is no longer desirable to sell property. It's desirable if you're going to develop it," Bruce tells ABiz.

Bruce, who did not specify when or why the original plans were scrapped, says the family has not yet sold any property in the area. About 200 acres are for sale, he says.