|Abandoned, condemned homes such as this one on 12th Street remain in legal limbo.|
The city has been looking to pass local legislation that would more clearly define the process for bringing the properties back to use, and establish Lafayette Consolidated Government’s own means of donating or selling adjudicated properties that it acquires. But fears of corporate land grabs and brother-in-law deals have conspired to thwart any progress. Vocal protests of this nature on the previous council, from both District 3’s Chris Williams and District 4’s Louis Benjamin — who represented the two districts with the highest number of adjudicated properties — initially stalled efforts. More recently, 2008 revisions to state law regarding adjudicated properties have forced new issues that also need to be addressed with any local ordinance.
Durel suffered another defeat on the issue last year. State Rep. Joel Robideaux introduced a bill on the mayor’s behalf in the state Legislature to establish the Lafayette Parish Redevelopment Authority, modeled almost completely on Baton Rouge’s successful redevelopment authority. But, when opposition quickly organized from groups ranging from the Lafayette Economic Development Authority, which feared a duplication of its own redevelopment efforts, to community associations touting a need for neighborhood protections, Robideaux — at Durel’s request — pulled the bill. “I was stunned at the wide range of opposition,” Durel says. “My mistake last year was I just assumed that everybody would be thrilled to get property back into commerce and there were some sensitivities that I wasn’t aware of.”
In addition, one organization that had been established to deal with adjudicated properties, the nonprofit Lafayette Land Revitalization Authority, recently ceased operations after the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority pulled its seed money for the organization, citing a lack of progress. The LLRA was established as a nonprofit in 2009. It grew out of the 2002 I-49 corridor preservation plan, which called for the establishment of a land bank to help with property relocation along the corridor’s footprint. The LLRA’s former executive director, Joan Savoy, argues that the organization had made progress, and that it had approximately 30 properties ready for disposition, but that it first needed the City-Parish Council to pass an ordinance allowing for the transfers.
Ironically, the council may have taken the first step toward a long-awaited ordinance governing adjudicated properties at its meeting last Tuesday when the Durel administration gave a presentation on the issue. It is expected to soon return to the council with an introductory ordinance, which is still being crafted. Meanwhile, Durel says he also plans to move forward again this year with state legislation to establish a parish redevelopment authority based on the Baton Rouge model. Last month, Baton Rouge attorney Charles Landry, who helped craft the Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, met with local officials with concerns about how a similar organization would function in Lafayette. “This year, we’ve explained [the concept] better,” Durel says. “We brought somebody from Baton Rouge to explain what [a redevelopment authority] did and why it did what it did and why it works. And I think there’s a different level of comfort for it now.”
District 4 Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux was one of those present at the meetings with Landry. Boudreaux says that he is open to the idea of a redevelopment authority, with certain conditions. “One thing I asked about that [Landry] made clear and I appreciated is that not necessarily everything that worked in Baton Rouge is going to work in Lafayette,” Boudreaux says. “Our challenge is going to be to make sure that we create the model that’s going to be good for Lafayette and not just take the Baton Rouge model and run with it.”
Legislation establishing the Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority granted the organization several redevelopment tools, including priority at sheriff’s sales, possible bonding and taxing authority and, in certain situations, the always controversial right of expropriation. By most accounts, the Durel administration is not planning to seek expropriation rights for any proposed Lafayette Redevelopment Authority.
Boudreaux has other concerns, noting that he wants to make sure any such government entity will work with families trying to clear their tax debts and reclaim homes, as well as neighborhood associations with concerns over any new developments in their communities.
“We need to continue to empower local people to control the final product that comes out of this,” Boudreaux says. “I don’t want to rush,” he adds. “It’s a long time coming, and it’s definitely a need, but it’s one of these things that I think we need to really take our time on and get it right because there are a lot of variables involved in my opinion that if not handled properly this thing could actually produce something that we would not like in the end. And I don’t want that to happen.”
Corporations spending in state elections; Kenny G and Hong Kong; states resist gay marriage and more national and international news for Thursday, October 23, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.
"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.
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.