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.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.
The Ethics Board gives the lame duck Youngsville mayor permission to offer a sweet parting gift to the community he’s presided over for three terms.