|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.”
Business organizations opposed the proposal, saying it would lead to job losses and higher prices for goods and services.
An attempt to repeal a six-year-old law that permits public school science teachers to use material outside a classroom's adopted textbook has been rejected by the Senate Education Committee.
New York Times poll shows Obama, Jindal have identical approval and disapproval ratings in the state.
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The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
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Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
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It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.