"We had a decent span," says longtime Point resident Richard Legnon. "In 33 years, it's my third bad storm." Hurricane Lili washed mud into camps three years ago. But the storm surge and hurricane-force winds of Rita caused far more damage and have also changed the complexion of a dispute between land owner Cypremort Point Inc. and approximately 150 tenants, who have been fighting the company's increases in rent.
Tenants were notified last November that leases would rise in cost anywhere from 240-1,200 percent ("Point Taken," April 27). Many claimed they were unable to pay the new prices and unable to sell their camps, because no buyer wanted to take on the escalating costs of leasing the land. Following months of tension, CPI reversed its policy earlier this summer after an initial refusal to sell land that camp owners had been leasing for decades. Still, tenant organization Tenants at Cypremort Point filed suit against CPI on June 30, claiming that CPI was unjustly profiting through exorbitant rent increases.
In an August interview, CPI Development Manager Robert Guillotte said sales were brisk. "It's going very well. When you sign seven buy-sells in one day, that's a good business." Guillotte defended the corporation's pricing. "I'm selling property. If the property at Cypremort Point was overvalued, why would people who don't already have a camp want to buy property there? It's the recreational value you're buying. People need to understand that. You can't justify a man who goes fishing. You can go to the grocery store and buy fish a lot cheaper."
Realtor Frank Brown, who has been involved in Cypremort Point real estate for decades, said in August that those sales couldn't be compared to a traditional market. "The prices are high. It's not really an open market transaction. There's nothing you can do." On the flip side, he says that once people buy their lots, they will be encouraged to improve their camps, ultimately raising property values. "It's going to be good for Cypremort Point," he concluded.
The first 60 parcels were offered to tenants in March, April and May. Three sales were recorded in July at the St. Mary Parish courthouse: one Cove Row property for $100,000, and two located along Hwy. 319 fetched $40,000 and $31,000. Guillotte said he had more than 20 buy-sell agreements signed in early August. According to the St. Mary Parish Clerk of Court's office, there were three sales in August, nine in September and one in October.
But some renters turned down CPI's offer, claiming the land is overvalued. "They called and offered $168,000," said Cove Row camp owner Lonnie Bewley in August. "It's worth half of that in my opinion. Prior to this I had an appraisal of my camp and pier at $280,000. Let's suppose that it's worth $260,000. Add in the $168,000 lot, you're up to $428,000 for a camp. Who's going to pay that?"
The lawsuit was scheduled to go to court this fall, but after Rita caused massive destruction to many tenant's camps, attitudes have changed. "The people who bought, bought under duress," says TACP President Weldon Taquino. "They bought because they had a big investment. They bought because they had no choice. The people who bought at top dollar, I think they got screwed. People who want to buy now say there is a lot of negotiating going on after the storm."
Some lessees are putting thoughts of negotiation on hold while they ponder the costs of rebuilding. Ann Boutte's camp was knocked off its 10-foot pilings. The structure is so unstable neither the family nor the insurance adjuster is willing to go inside. Homeowner's insurance doesn't cover damage from rising water, and Boutte didn't have flood insurance.
The Bouttes bought the house in 1999 for $25,000 and spent another $20,000 to fix it after storm damage from Hurricane Lili in 2002. The lease was $300 annually when they bought the camp. It has gone up to $1,000 a year and is scheduled to go up to $3,000 next year when the existing three-year contract expires.
"Do they [CPI] think we're going to buy the land and then rebuild the camp?" Boutte asks. Boutte contends that the land her camp stood on is swampland. She adds that if the coast keeps eroding, the land will be worth even less. "It was rumored that they're going to sell these lots for $40,000," she says. "No one has contacted us. If we were going to pay $40,000 for a piece of land, we'd buy it along the bayou in New Iberia. There's other land in other places."
The Bouttes haven't made any decisions. The level of destruction is still too raw in Ann's mind. "We had new furniture, every stick of it. A new side-by-side refrigerator, a new dishwasher ' I haven't even used it. The beds are still made with clean sheets. We just about lived here. It was nice while it lasted," she says with a sigh.
A renter since 1986, Gerald Adams' camp sustained considerable damage from the storm surge. He says he couldn't afford flood insurance. "I got to pull the roof off, and the inside's no good," he says. Adams has been through numerous storms: Andrew, Danny, Lili and Rita. He is willing to weather another hurricane ' under one condition. "If I owned the land, I'd stay. I'd improve this place. It's the only way I'll get my money out now. I heard this (lot) was selling for between $42,000 and $44,000. My lease is $4,200 a year. Do you think this place is worth that?" he grumbles. "If I leave, I'm going to take my camp with me," he says. "CPI ought to be out here talking to us. We're not getting a fair shake."
CPI's Guillotte declined to comment following Hurricane Rita, and CPI attorney Raymond Allain did not return a call for comment. Taquino contends that CPI is no longer in a position of power. For those with flood insurance, Taquino contends, the storm has created a way out of the dilemma. "Thirty, 40 people in the tenants group will take their insurance money and run," he says. But even if tenants didn't have insurance, the situation has changed. "People lost their investments. The pressure to buy the property has been greatly reduced," Taquino says. "It seems like Rita called [CPI's] bluff."
Qualifying continues through Friday.
The political tilt of the Senate during President Barack Obama's final two years in office is likely to hinge on a handful of female contenders in tight and costly races.
A former BP executive will be allowed to travel to the United Kingdom later this month while he awaits trial on charges relating to an investigation of the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
South Koreans defend ramen; special forces had failed to find James Foley; Vegas lures LGBT tourists and more national and international news for Thursday, August 21, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Friends and family will celebrate Spider's life in September.
Saints safety Jairus Byrd has rarely been so eager to hit and be hit, if only to reassure himself that his surgically repaired back is as healed as doctors believe.
Jindal privatized nearly all the LSU hospitals without waiting for federal officials to sign off on financing arrangements that rely on millions of federal Medicaid dollars.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her main Republican challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, verbally sparred as they officially signed up on the opening day of qualifying for Louisiana's November election.
Superintendent tells crowd he'd just emerged from a four-hour meeting with the attorney hired to investigate him.
The start of the three-day qualifying period for November’s elections has so far yielded 10 official bids and one new announcement from candidates seeking a seat on the school board.
It’s been just over four months since attorney Barry Domingue committed suicide the morning before he was to stand trial for a second day in the federal Curious Goods case, leaving his fellow attorney/co-defendant Daniel Stanford with a temporary mistrial and awaiting his day in court.
Candidates for Louisiana's Nov. 4 election must officially sign up for the ballot this week.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's effort to derail Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards was halted Tuesday by a state judge who said the governor's actions were harmful to parents, teachers and students.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram isn't letting a humbling start to his pro career lower his opinion of what he can still accomplish in the NFL.
Visualize Lafayette’s next great thing from 3,000 feet.
A Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday against enforcing a law that prohibits anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable.
Gov. Bobby Jindal believes the last-minute passage of a pension hike for his state police superintendent, Col. Mike Edmonson, was improperly handled, according to the governor's office.
As the courts hash out the attempts to preserve and shelve Common Core in Louisiana, a group of six state lawmakers are planning an Aug. 22 trip to Oklahoma to meet with their counterparts and strategize for the 2015 regular session.
While hopes are high for turnout this fall, a new report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate suggests that Louisiana's midterm face-offs may amount to nothing special in terms of votes cast.
The attorney hired by the Lafayette Parish School Board for a special investigation of Superintendent Pat Cooper has submitted his final report, though it may be another week before the findings are made public.
The Tea Party of Louisiana is calling Sen. David Vitter a “turncoat” for his newfound embrace of Common Core educational standards.
An annual report evaluating Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization of Medicaid lacked important financial information and presented rosy performance reviews not corroborated by data, according to a review released Monday.
Lafayette attorney Michelle Meaux-Breaux has announced her plans to seek the Division E seat for judge in the 15th Judicial District.
A card-carrying member of Lafayette’s “tribe,” Milton “Spider” Guidry died over the weekend. IND music writer Nick Pittman remembers the character and the man.