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 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.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 16, 2014:
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.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.
The Appropriations Committee held public testimony day, letting people talk about what they like or don't like about Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Lafayette police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found early Sunday in a drainage ditch in Girard Park.
Former Grant parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley says he's running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Vance McAllister of Swartz.
Louisiana-Lafayette got strong starting pitching and timely hitting to hold off Arkansas-Little Rock 6-3 in Sun Belt Conference baseball in Lafayette, La.
Chris Williams knows how to pilfer from the public coffers, this time with a back-pay lawsuit filed three years ago against the Lafayette Housing Authority, which netted the former city-parish councilman a cool five figures.
McAllister's office vowed that he intended to stay in office — for now. As for questions about whether he would stand for re-election in November, those were dodged.
The Green Army's Lafayette brigade has announced it will pay a visit Friday morning to Sen. Page Cortez to urge him to vote against Sen. Robert Adley's SB 553, which the group is calling the "Big Oil Bailout Bill of 2014."