News roundup: Planning Commission approves Willows at Bayou Fountain subdivision … Subsidizing developers rebuilding in vulnerable areas is ‘social welfare,’ FEMA chief says … AMC Entertainment wins US antitrust approval to buy Carmike Cinemas

    Moving dirt: Despite concerns residents and environmentalists raised about flooding and developing in wetlands along Burbank Drive, the city-parish Planning Commission on Monday OK’d the construction of the Willows at Bayou Fountain subdivision on Burbank near Siegen Lane. The 102-residential lot subdivision is being built on an 85-acre tract of land that also will include a commercial component and a retention pond to help prevent flooding. Some residents, grassroots and environmental groups asked the commission to reject the development after the area flooded in August. The commission, though, unanimously approved the subdivision on the condition that setbacks on the plat are corrected.

    High risk: The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says subsidizing developers to rebuild in flood zones amounts to nothing more than “social welfare for developers.” Craig Fugate tells NPR’s Here & Now that taxpayers are underwriting the risk for developers to rebuild—even when the private sector doesn’t think it’s a good idea—in high-risk areas prone to hurricanes and coastal floods, without any benefit. He says developers can use the money to rebuild, sell the property and walk away with a profit. There’s no incentive for developers to change their behavior if the government reimburses up to 75% of rebuilding costs, says Fugate, who’s leaving his post on Jan. 20. “I’m not saying development is bad, but it needs to be in the character of, do we fully understand the risk to our tax base and what it would cost to respond to this development in a crisis, and have we factored that into the overall picture? Or, are we picking up those costs unintentionally or uninformed while other people have made their profits and moved on?” he says. Read the interview.

    Big ticket: AMC Entertainment Holdings, which has theaters at the Mall of Louisiana and off O’Neal Lane, today won U.S. antitrust approval with conditions to buy smaller competitor Carmike Cinemas Inc. in a $1.2 billion deal. Reuters reports the deal would create the biggest U.S. movie theater chain. The Justice Department says it approved the deal on condition that AMC and Carmike divest theaters in 15 markets and take steps to ensure that National Cinemedia and Screenvision, the two companies that make and sell pre-show advertising entertainment, remain viable. Kansas-based AMC, which is majority-owned by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group, has about 380 theaters, while Georgia-based Carmike has 276 theaters, according to their websites. Competitor Regal Majestic has theaters in some 549 locations, according to company data. Read the full story. 

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