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.
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.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
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.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
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.
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.