With the controversy over whether to develop parts of the former Colonial Golf and Country Club reaching a boiling point, two Harahan residents kicked off an effort Wednesday to recall Mayor Vinny Mosca, seen as one of the most ardent supporters of the project.
Matt Wellman and Susan Benton, who both live near the now-defunct country club, are leading the recall drive as city officials consider whether to approve a rezoning that would allow the project to proceed.
The proposed development, which would put a shopping center on about 15 acres of the 88-acre property, has spurred a sharp backlash among nearby residents concerned about the loss of one of the largest areas of green space in east Jefferson.
Neighbors also have claimed the project would worsen flooding in the area, increase traffic and add to the city’s stock of vacant stores.
The shopping center is being proposed by Stirling Properties. The Colonial property itself is owned by John Georges, who also owns The New Orleans Advocate, and developer Wayne Ducote. If the rezoning is successful, Stirling would buy the 15 acres.
At a recent Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Wellman urged residents to support the recall, arguing it would lead to a more responsive city government.
“We want to dedicate our politicians to listen to the people,” he said.
Wellman and his supporters will have 180 days to collect signatures from a third of the city’s voters, or about 2,250 people, to force a recall election.
Mosca, a lawyer, has been a fixture of Harahan politics since the 1990s, when he served two terms as mayor.
When term limits prevented him from making a third run, he won a seat on the City Council that he held for two terms before securing a third mayoral term in 2010. His term expires next year.
Mosca has been a supporter of the proposed shopping center, saying it would add significant sales tax revenue to city coffers, allowing Harahan to pay for needed services and improvements.
The City Council is expected to debate the rezoning proposal at its meeting on Oct. 17. Earlier this month, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the council reject the proposal, but that recommendation is not binding on the council.