Nederland City Council voices support for airport development; awaits construction details

Published 12:32 am Tuesday, August 31, 2021

NEDERLAND — One by one, the members of Nederland’s City Council voiced their appreciation of and support for a proposed retail and industrial development on the site of Jack Brooks Regional Airport.

Developer Henry LaBrie requested the verbal support on Aug. 16 and received it Monday — but not before it came with a few qualifiers.

“Mr. LaBrie, if you think we are kind of cautious on this item, it is because the city of Nederland, other than a few vacant lots here and there, is landlocked,” Mayor Don Albanese said. “We don’t have any more property. This is our last hurrah. This piece of property at the airport is something where we don’t want warehouses or silos.

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“The graphics and pictures that you have come up with, if that is what it is going to be, than that is fine.”

LaBrie, who operates LaBrie Properties, appeared before Jefferson County commissioners earlier this year and described two retail centers planned for the U.S. 69 service center. He has since signed a lease with the county and not the city, a point Councilwoman Sylvia Root stressed while also voicing support for LaBrie’s effort to bring greater retail options to Nederland.

LaBrie, who created the Silos shopping center in Beaumont near Tram Road, told the city council the frontage road part of the 50-acre development would be strictly retail, with industrial interests and possibly office space behind it.

LaBrie said he has three retail customers and one industrial partner ready for contracts but wanted to secure city council support first. The developer said he would provide a list of tenants, design plans and timelines to the city council in the near future.

A pre-construction meeting concerning water and sewer access is planned Wednesday.

Nederland City Attorney Jesse Branick stressed to LaBrie that Monday’s voices of support from council members did not amount to signing off on construction completion.

“I just want to make sure (you know) this is not an agreement on behalf of the city,” Branick said. “You have the full backing of the city council for your endeavors, but it is going to depend on the terms and conditions of what other things you’re doing out there, specifically Mr. LaBrie, as far as any agreement.”

Councilman Talmadge Austin said he is very interested in seeing what LaBrie can do at the airport.

“If it’s retail and it’s going to create tax money for the city and jobs, I’m all for it,” Austin said.

Councilman Randy Sonnier said more retail options are needed in Nederland.

“We’re pushing to get the retail development,” he said. “If it is retail development, then we cannot say no to something like this.”