Fontenot represents the Buller family of Ville Platte, which owns the 177-acre tract near Acadian Hills Golf Course. The Bullers sued Couret Place Inc. for breach of contract in September but have not pursued the litigation because of Cal-Bay's interest in taking over the project.
"[Cal-Bay] had a deadline to do certain things, and they did not do those things," says Fontenot, who declined to discuss any financial details of the negotiations. However, a source close to the proposed deal says the Buller family was requesting a $100,000 good faith deposit, which Cal-Bay failed to produce.
Cal-Bay representatives did not respond to phone and e-mail requests seeking comment for this story.
In early December, Cal-Bay Vice President Bill Sickert told The Independent Weekly the company planned to purchase Couret Place Inc., pay the Buller family for the land and proceed with plans to develop the real estate project into a mixed-use, traditional neighborhood much like south Lafayette's River Ranch. Based on the Bullers' asking price and the debt that accumulated Â' a number of contractors who did work on the site are owed several thousand dollars each, one as much as $437,000 Â' it's estimated that Cal-Bay would have had to invest from $9 million to $12 million just to get into the project. Subsequent development costs would have drastically increased that initial investment.
On Jan. 18 Cal-Bay, a publicly traded real estate development group based in Carlsbad, Calif., announced that it had secured funding for what it called a $400 million "residential/commercial golf course development project" in Lafayette. The Buller family property is next to Acadian Hills Golf Course, but the course is not part of the deal. "It really upset me when I saw that in print," says Acadian Hills General Manager John Guilbeau. "We don't know those people."
But the major red flag raised by the announcement was that the Bullers, who still have title to the property, had yet to finalize the deal with Cal-Bay. In mid-January, Fontenot said the company had missed a deadline to respond to the Bullers' offer. "There is no deal with Cal-Bay," Fontenot now says.
Cal-Bay International is a "penny stock" that does not trade on a major exchange. As of late last week, Cal-Bay's stock price had dropped to 2 cents per share, and the company had a market value of $824,800. The stock is down 98 percent from a high of $1.10 in March 2006.
Other parties not related to Cal-Bay or Couret Place Inc. Â' it is widely speculated that John Royston or his partners brought the California company to the table ' have expressed interest in the property, and the Bullers want to sell the beautiful tract. The problem is that the property is now tied up in a legal quagmire of lawsuits and liens filed by local companies that did work on the site. An undetermined number of people also put money down on lots in the residential portion of the proposed development.
In their lawsuit, the Bullers say they were unaware that local contractors had begun working on the property because Couret Place Inc., led by John Royston, who over the years has had numerous financial disputes with local companies, was continually trying to renegotiate the deal, and the two parties had yet to come to an agreement. The Bullers claim Couret Place Inc. did not have the financial wherewithal to meet the original agreement and disguised a new revenue sharing program as a better deal for the family in order to delay payments.
When Couret Place began asking the Bullers for money to pay for the infrastructure, which the Bullers say was Couret Place's responsibility, a Buller family member went to the site June 29 and told the contractors to go home; the legal problems started soon after. "All along, Couret Place did not have and knew it did not have money to pay the contractors and engineers as per the agreements, but still went ahead and engaged the services of engineers and contractors on its own," the Bullers say in their suit.
Fontenot says Cal-Bay told him during earlier negotiations that it had purchased Couret Place Inc., which could add yet another layer of legal complications. "Later on in our negotiations, they said they were negotiating to acquire it, so I don't know [the status]," he says.
Since Fontenot called off the deal, however, Cal-Bay has a new legal problem. On Feb. 6 real estate appraiser Lane Godshall's company, hired by Cal-Bay to appraise the property in October, filed suit in state district court seeking $4,500.
Godshall says he was unfamiliar with Cal-Bay when asked to appraise the property, so he requested up-front payment for his services. "They sent me a check via FedEx," he says. Godshall conducted the appraisal, sent it to his client in mid-November and deposited the check. He then went out of town for a week.
"I came back, and it had bounced," Godshall says. When Godshall called the company, vice president Sickert blamed an administrative error. Recalls Godshall, "He said, 'We have like six bank accounts and are always moving money around.'" After that initial conversation, Godshall says Cal-Bay representatives stopped taking his calls.
When his demand letter was also ignored, Godshall filed suit. "That hasn't happened to me in a number ' a number of years," the appraiser says.
The Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
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The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
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A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
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.
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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.