The city of Orange is eyeing to commercially develop in the future along one of its main attributes- the Sabine River.

A rumor, however, circulating among some residents who reside along Simmons Drive believe the city may move low and/or moderate income residents to other parts of the city to make way for development. Some cite moving Arthur Robinson Apartment residents from Burton Street on the eastern side of the city, to Sikes Road on the northwest side as an example.

City Manager Shawn Oubre addressed the issue by saying the city’s role in housing is providing the infrastructure (maintenance of roads, water, and sewer) to make an area desirable for a developer and not in building public housing.

“I think the confusing thing for your source is how the city (through legislation) has to participate by council approving an Ordinance or Resolution to approve of a loan, tax credit or other legislated mandate action for public housing,” Oubre said. “As you recall, the city approved its support of recent projects because of an earlier agreement to ‘further low and moderate’ housing. This agreement was due to a lawsuit brought on by the housing advocates that felt current public housing was not meeting federal mandates.”

Oubre explained in order for the city to keep its prior federal funding, future federal funding, and grants, the city was required to follow the settlement guidelines.

This would also include disaster recovery funds, police and fire grants and CDBG funds. So the funds represent many different dollars to the community, he said.

The appropriation of private property by the government against the will of the owner can happen legally through a process known as condemnation, according to the Texas A&M University Real Estate Center web site.

“Many property owners are not aware of their rights when faced with condemnation and thus fail to act in their own best interests. This publication explains where the power to condemn comes from, which entities have this power, what the condemnation procedure is in Texas and how property rights are best protected. It should be noted that the taking of property by way of condemnation can sometimes be averted or delayed. One way is to discover a procedural error; another is to enter an out-of-court settlement.,” the article stated. The article also differentiates between the terms eminent domain and condemnation.

“Eminent domain is defined as the power of the sovereign (or government) to take private property for a public use. Condemnation is the procedure by which the taking or appropriation occurs. Thus, the former is the power, the latter is the process.”

Furthermore, “As to the element of compensation, Article 1, Section 17, of the Texas Constitution provides, “No person’s property shall be taken, damaged or destroyed for or applied to public use without adequate compensation being made, unless by the consent of such person; and, when taken, except for the use of the state, such compensation shall be first made, or secured by a deposit of money.

“Due process is a constitutional directive levied against each state. Basically, the condemnee must be provided a reasonable notice and a reasonable opportunity to be heard and to present a claim or defense.”

Oubre added the city could not acquire land for a third party or for a purpose that is not a benefit for the community.

“Lastly, the city currently owns over 160 acres on Simmons. The city would like to develop this property along with other sites that are being discussed with developers in other parts of the city.”

Jay Trahan, director of the Orange Economic Development Corp., said his department is focused on a quality of life initiative for development along Simmons Drive, such as new restaurants, motels and 120 acres the city owns, known as the Harry Reed Property, that could be developed for recreational/sports activities.

“Residents can enjoy it on a daily basis and visitors could, too. It’s a catalyst to draw people in and spur additional development there,” Trahan said.

Plans are to develop the city’s natural assets, such as the Sabine River, to play a key role in economic development. Trahan added the city has used its natural assets in the past, such as, timber and ship building, for economic development.

Trahan believes the Riverfront Boardwalk and Pavilion development will complement development on Simmons Drive.

“We stabilized the shoreline, constructed the boardwalk and then we built the Pavilion for outdoor events. We already have a world class indoor theater with the Lutcher, but we had none outside,” he said. “Kemah is a model. They began as a fishing pier and then added a boardwalk and I think the first restaurant there was Landry’s.”

When asked if part of the economic development plans included a riverboat for gambling purposes, Trahan said there has been no discussions over a gambling venue there and that would be an initiative for the Texas Legislature.

Trahan said there are developers in Houston and Dallas who are interested in the Orange area and who can do the work.

“They look at the marketing trends, the population density and the possible infrastructure- the availability of water and sanitary sewer as the top two components for economic development. Some other ongoing projects the OEDC was instrumental in creating are as follows:

MLK Drive- The city will complete a $750,000 water/sanitary sewer infrastructure project for the purpose of positioning the city for future residential and commercial growth.  For instance, a $1 million Crawdad’s Convenience Center is being built adjacent to the old Luby’s Restaurant at MLK and Interstate 10.

Another infrastructure project valued at $350,000 is occurring on 15th Street. A sanitary sewer line is being relocated for the purpose of future economic development projects along 16th Street. Development may include restaurants and retail outlets.

An ongoing infrastructure project is the $76 million Interstate 10 project from Adams Bayou to the state line. This will be the last portion to be completed along the Interstate. The project will also include new frontage roads and a new 16th Street overpass. The OEDC will continue to work with corporate contacts and site selectors to target sites along the freeway for commercial development. The downtown Riverfront Boardwalk and Pavilion is nearing completion. The project includes adding new landscaping at the Pavilion, extending the concrete service drive to the Pavilion from 6th Street and adding new benches and receptacles. The city will continue with its beautification project by adding additional crepe myrtle trees in designated areas.

Wayne Toups and ZydeCajun will play the after party after the Mardi Gras Parade at 5 p.m. The concert will be from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Feb. 22 at the Pavilion.

Art in the Park will now be held at the Pavilion from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 22. There will be artists, crafts, food booths and children activities on hand. Entertainment will be provided by Britt Godwin, David Joel and the Peterson Brothers of Austin.

There will now be a drag boat race in Orange in addition to the tunnel boat race. Deep South Racing Association will host 50 to 60 racers from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida from May 31 to June 1 on the Sabine River.

The tunnel boat races are scheduled for September 19-21. This national event will be hosted by Southern Professional Outboard Racing Team (SPORT) with 50 to 60 racers from states as far away as Illinois and Michigan.

Taylor Warner, Convention and Visitors Bureau coordinator, said she is in the planning stage for a family day and an outdoor film night provided by Blue Moon Cinemas at the Pavilion during April, a July 4th celebration and a Labor Day event. Warner said her job is to raise more awareness through tourism and raising hotel occupancy rates. During last year’s fishing tournaments, for example, 50 to 60 motel rooms were blocked off for the anglers.

The CVB also completed an online survey with 160 responses out of 423 subscribers to raise awareness about the city outside of Orange.