Attorney Jimmy Davidson claims to have 77 percent of the covenant cancellations he needs to change the character and integrity of the historic Girard Park community by opening it up to commercial development, but neighbors who are fighting him say 72 percent of the property he needs is actually on their side or has stayed out of the controversy.

At a 9 a.m. court hearing Monday, District Judge John Trahan will hear Davidson’s motion for summary judgment, determining whether any material facts or matters of law are in dispute in the case.

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Girard Park residents hoping to preserve the residential integrity of their neighborhood
will argue in state district court Monday that attorney Jimmy Davidson has nowhere near the covenant cancellation agreements he needs. Those residents say this exhibit shows that 72 percent
of property owners in the affected area are either against Davidson or have stayed out of the
controversy.

Chief among the issues will be the waivers themselves. “They don’t have everything they say they have in the way of [cancellations],” says attorney Gary McGoffin, who represents the opposing residents (and, full disclosure, is IND Monthly’s legal counsel). Davidson, who owns 4 acres at Girard Park and Hospital drives, has been battling his neighbors in this quaint slice of Lafayette for more than a decade, gathering waivers from them since 1995 in an attempt to have the court declare null and void a 1940 covenant that restricts much of the property along Girard Park drive to single-family dwellings and apartments. He needs cancellation agreements from more than half of the land area affected by the covenant, also known as Act 153556. What should be included in the calculation is all of the property south and west of Girard Park Circle and Girard Park Drive and the portion of that property east of and abutting Girard Park Drive for a depth of 300 feet. The weight of each vote is determined by the square footage of land area within each property owner’s lot.

Girard_Park_coverIn building his case, Davidson uses at least 10 waivers signed by people who no longer own the property encumbered by the covenant, according to McGoffin, who believes Davidson needs new waivers from current land owners. “Simply put, this is an election which requires a majority vote,” McGoffin writes in his opposition to summary judgment. “The voters are the owners of the land on the date of the election.” Under Davidson’s theory, McGoffin argues that these 10 landowners would be disenfranchised from the right to vote on the character of their neighborhood.

Additionally, some of those who signed waivers have revoked them, and for unknown reasons Davidson decided to exclude six lots owned by the Verlanders (across from Davidson’s home and located at the corner of Girard Park Drive and Girard Park Circle) in his computations; the plaintiff is likely to argue that their non-conforming use — they run a bed and breakfast on the property — should exempt them. And then there is the murky matter of the city-owned former planetarium building and Heymann Memorial Park property. Davidson claims that the city’s intervention in his suit was an agreement to waive the covenant restrictions, but no such waiver — which would likely require council approval — has been signed.

The defendants in the case hired engineer/land surveyor Al Reaux to analyze the property; his assessment was based on records from the Lafayette Parish tax assessor's office.

Davidson and his attorney have declined comment on the case.

For more on this issue, read the IND’s February cover story, “Don’t Back Down,” here.

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