The university first said it needed written consent from the new appraiser before releasing the document. For its part, the DOA claimed appraisals are not public record because the information is used to negotiate a price. "We do not necessarily want the owner to know the appraised value during negotiations," wrote Jerry Jones, the DOA's director of Facility Planning and Control, in an e-mail response.
The Independent Weekly didn't buy those arguments. Gary McGoffin, an attorney for the newspaper, sent a letter to both groups last Friday morning. Meanwhile, university spokeswoman Julie Dronet said UL President Ray Authement was preparing a release on the findings of the appraisal and the university's "next steps."
McGoffin points out that the state constitution and Title 44 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes provide that all records in the possession of the public body are available to the public, unless specifically listed as an exception. "The burden is on the public body to prove that the record may not be disclosed," McGoffin says. "And we find no exception in the rules that would prohibit the disclosure of any appraisal in the possession of [UL]."
At press time, the university and the DOA gave The Independent Weekly a different excuse for not releasing the appraisal. Citing a provision of Louisiana law, they both claimed the appraisal was off-limits because it was "obtained or prepared in anticipation of litigation or in preparation for trial."
So despite freely offering previous appraisals, the university won't release this one because it expects to be sued over the whole land swap debacle.
The new appraisal is the third valuation of Davidson's property conducted for the purpose of this land swap. The initial December 2003 appraisal and the October 2005 revision yielded the same $3.25 million valuation, but the most recent appraisal is probably significantly lower than Parker's, say local real estate professionals, many of whom were quick to cry foul when the land swap proposal was first announced.
"The $3.25 million was ridiculously high," says Harold Lambert, a commercial real estate appraiser, developer and broker. "I think it should be between $1 million and $1.5 million, depending upon the residential density a buyer could accomplish there." For example, if the buyer could rezone the 4.1 acres, now classified for single-family housing, for condominium or other multi-family development, it may be worth the upper end of that [$1.5 million] range, he says. The university is not restricted by zoning ordinances and can do whatever it wants with the Girard Park Drive property; Authement says he needs the two Davidson homes for faculty housing.
Ordered in December by the Board of Supervisors for the UL System, which had approved the controversial land swap deal several months before, the new appraisal was done by Lane Godshall of Appraiser Analysts in Lafayette, according to real estate sources. Godshall, however, would not even say whether he conducted the appraisal. "It's confidential," he says.
Last December, The Independent Weekly published an editorial calling for Authement to kill the proposed deal, in which 36 acres of the horse farm would be exchanged for Davidson's 4 acres, and later that day the Board of Supervisors asked the DOA to recommend independent appraisers for both the horse farm property and the Davidson land. The board asked for the new appraisals because an amended appraisal of the horse farm property had revealed its value to be $5.37 million if the university got it rezoned from residential to commercial, substantially more than the $3.25 million the university planned to exchange it for.
On its own dime, the university sought to rezone the property so the anticipated new owners, Jerry Brents and Dan Menard, could develop a retail center. The university, however, was willing to sell it at the much lower residential value, at a loss of more than $2 million to the state. The rezoning attempt was unsuccessful.
With the Davidson property likely valued much lower by Godshall, Authement's blunder could now be approaching the multi-million dollar range.
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Oscar de la Renta dies; Pistorius sentenced; World Series begins and more national and international news for Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.
Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
Former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party's most popular surrogate this fall, is heading to Louisiana early next week for a campaign rally with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Time and again you hear people say DA Mike Harson is unbeatable because he's doled out political favors over the past 20 years. But a new lawsuit could end that speculation.
After the season's signature win (so far), here are some helpful tips for Cajun Nation during the conference stretch.
Did the state close last year's books with a surplus or a deficit?
Practicing without limitations on Wednesday, running back Mark Ingram looked ready to return to a New Orleans offense that once again ranks among the NFL's best when the Saints play at Detroit on Sunday.
It’s been decided: Superintendents of Louisiana’s public school system will retain the controversial powers granted by Act 1 of the 2012 session.
Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy has a bone to pick with the Jindal administration, which recently — surprise! — announced that the state ended the most recent budget year with a $178.5 million dollar surplus.
The messaging battle, however, isn't tied to individual campaign accounts. Third-party groups have poured millions of dollars into advertising.