On Wednesday, Nov. 28, he issued a press release detailing how the university is "landlocked," an argument the outgoing university president has made at every opportunity over the past couple of years, but the timing on this release appears more than coincidental. It was distributed the day after attorney Jimmy Davidson successfully rezoned a portion of his Girard Park Drive property for commercial use.
It's the same 4.1 acres Authement has long tried to get his hands on, the property at the corner of Hospital and Girard Park drives that was part of the failed horse farm land-swap. It was valued at $3.25 million for the deal but shown to be worth only $1.5 million after the state ordered a new appraisal. The new commercial classification, however, may make it more valuable today.
Titled "Large Enrollment, Not Much Room for Growth," with the subheading, "UL Lafayette second to smallest main academic campus in acres in UL System," Wednesday's release repeated the case for why UL needs more property. "The university needs to acquire land close to campus to make room for expansion," the release reads. "Constructing academic buildings away from the main campus creates major inconveniences for students and operating a transportation system is proving to be expensive. The cost of labor, buses and fuel is a financial burden on the university."
The day before Authement reiterated his landlocked message, Davidson worked out a sweet deal with outgoing Lafayette City-Parish Council members, who overwhelmingly approved the controversial rezoning of his property ' despite that he has yet to deliver a specific plan for what he hopes to develop there. The only council members to vote against the rezoning were Bruce Conque and Dale Bourgeois. Rob Stevenson, who indicated several weeks ago to The Independent Weekly that he would likely side with neighbors who opposed the rezoning, was absent.
"I made two attempts with Jimmy to get some assurances and couldn't get them," Conque says. The councilman had hoped to get specific conditions in writing to protect the integrity of the park area and to ensure that if Davidson sells the property ' which he has long tried to do ' those conditions would be still have to be met. Among Conque's requests was that Davidson restrict the commercial rezoning to the portion of the property behind the two old homes, ensuring the residential area would remain intact. But Davidson was unwilling to compromise. "If he was willing to put it on paper, I would have supported it," Conque says.
Until 2006, the local attorney surreptitiously ran a plastics manufacturing business in his back yard long enough to have it grandfathered into a commercial zoning classification, but it reverted to residential classification when Davidson relocated the business ("Backyard Plastics Business Moving Out," Jan. 6, 2006). Now he has successfully rezoned 2.67 acres in the back of the property for commercial use, purportedly to construct office and retail space. It was rezoned for B-1-L, a limited business classification that would allow a variety of developments ranging from apartments to neighborhood service oriented businesses and office space. It's unclear what will happen to the pool, which was used as a cooling facility for the plastics business, and tennis court.
The council also agreed to rezone a little more than an acre of the single-family residential property along Girard Park Drive to R-4, which allows condominiums, townhouses and patio homes (both attached and detached).
Both Lafayette Consolidated Government's zoning staff and the Lafayette Zoning Commission opposed the rezoning in large part because Davidson would not present a firm plan for redeveloping the property; by law, he does not have to do so, and the council did not hold him to that standard. While Davidson did present a general plan to the council, it was anything but comprehensive.
"There are no contingencies, no conditional rezoning," says Douglas English, who lives on Girard Woods Drive and heads the neighborhood group that fought the intrusion of commercial development in the residentially-zoned area. He maintains that the council employed flawed logic in determining that Davidson should be able to rezone his property for commercial use simply because it is near existing businesses like Lafayette General Medical Center and the Oil Center. "To put a commercial facility in there now upsets that balance," English says, "especially since we don't know what the commercial is."
Conque also asked that the rezoning be tabled for one week so that Davidson and the residents could come to terms. "He got no support for that," English says.
Commercial intrusion was a major issue for opponents, but the group also expressed concerns about safety and the impact of additional traffic in the residential area surrounding the park. At the meeting, Davidson agreed to donate the right-of-way for the city to build a roundabout at the corner of Girard Park and Hospital drives, which would address some safety and traffic concerns.
The extent to which the rezoning increases the value of Davidson's property is unclear because the back portion of the property has limited access. The only way to get to it is from the Oil Center parking lot and the residential driveways, the latter no longer allowable once the property is developed commercially. Davidson is proposing to use his existing curb cut on Hospital Drive, which is a driveway to one of the homes, to create a new access point to the commercial development.
The lack of a master plan and Davidson's waffling on what he wants to build again is fueling speculation that the longtime UL supporter who is a member of the UL Foundation's Board of Trustees simply secured the rezoning in order to sell the property to UL for more than $1.5 million. The acreage was initially, and inaccurately, appraised for its commercial potential at $3.25 million by retired Lafayette appraiser George Parker. A new appraisal ordered by the state after questions were raised about the integrity of the first appraisal reduced the value more than half. As a state entity, however, UL would not have been held to any zoning restrictions had it purchased the property before it was reclassified.
"We've always thought that that's in the background," English says of a potential purchase of the property by UL.
Authement, who was successfully sued by The Independent Weekly after refusing to release the state-ordered appraisal, has never wavered in his desire to acquire the property.
"I just spoke with Dr. Authement, and he said that because our campus is landlocked he is absolutely interested in purchasing any available property near campus," UL spokeswoman Julie Dronet said last Wednesday morning. "He has not, however, spoken to Mr. Davidson since the property was rezoned yesterday evening to discuss the availability of the property."
About six hours later, Authement's "landlocked" press release was sent to local media.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The Houston firm said Friday in its weekly report that 1,575 rigs were exploring for oil and 338 for gas. One was listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,776 active rigs.
A crew began erecting the 25-foot mini-wheel late morning Friday in anticipation of the evening’s Hottest Night of the Year party at the park.
Frances Boothe of Nunez, who also happens to be filmmaker Stephen Meaux’s grandmother, prepares a cool-weather fave.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
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The LPSB is poised and ready to move forward with the termination of Pat Cooper following a discussion Thursday with the attorney hired for the investigation of the superintendent, but a decision of this magnitude should be left up to the new board seated in January, especially with three pro-investigation board members bailing out come the new year.
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Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
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High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
Three bedroom Port Barre cottage or three bedroom historic district Opelousas home
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It will be next month before Gov. Bobby Jindal will likely get a chance to change the membership of a South Louisiana flood board that is suing dozens of oil, gas and pipeline companies.
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Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
The Acadiana Center for the Arts and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority have announced a new artist stipend program, ArtSpark, designed to offer financial aid to local artists.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Three bedroom traditional or two bedroom Victorian cottage