|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.”
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.