|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.”
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.