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Councilwoman says BREC is not being transparent about Baton Rouge Zoo move

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BATON ROUGE - In 2016, BREC announced it wanted to move the Baton Rouge Zoo. One of the first suggested locations was at the state fairgrounds off Airline Highway. When August rolled around and the fairgrounds received ten feet of water, BREC took it off its list.

But just last week, BREC announced that the location is now their top choice.

"I mean overwhelmingly, people were against the zoo move it didn't make sense, gave credible facts as to why this was just ludicrous," Councilwoman Chuana Banks said.

Banks claims that BREC is not being transparent with her or residents. She points to their hundreds of closed meetings and backtracking on their location choice as evidence.

"Who are you talking to when you have the meetings, why aren't they publicized, why does no one know about it?" Banks asked.

BREC's communication director Cheryl Michelet says Banks is misinformed.

"To refer to such meetings as 'not being transparent' or 'secret' is a misunderstanding of the law and what is required at best, and disingenuous and intentionally misleading at worst," Michelet said in an email. "We have been highly transparent during this entire process and welcome any examples of other agencies that have been more transparent in similar efforts that involve parish-wide planning efforts."

Unlike the zoo's current location, the fairgrounds are surrounded by residences.

"The back of our neighborhood backs up to the fairgrounds, resident Reuben Ruiz explained. "We're a little bit worried about the possiblity of odor, sounds that might be coming from the zoo, especially at night, and a big concern for us down here would be flooding,"

Other neighbors agree.

"I don't know if there's enough property to build a big zoo," James Burns said. "I don't know if they have enough property for expansion.

Although the fairgrounds did flood in 2016, BREC says engineers have assured them that the site will be a good place for the zoo. Plans include building a water retention pond and using certain soil.

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