By a 3-2 vote Wednesday evening, the Youngsville City Council approved an ordinance annexing a roughly mile-long strip of land on the south side of the newly opened Ambassador Caffery Parkway extension from just west of La. 89 to the just west of Bonin Road. It is the latest turf war in an ongoing battle for land along the new roadway in south Lafayette Parish and, based on the tension in the standing-room-only council chamber and the frequency with which Youngsville Mayor Wilson Viator wielded his gavel, a portent of things to come as Youngsville, Broussard and Lafayette scramble to acquire land in what promises to be a lucrative source of future sales tax revenue.
Depending on one’s reading of annexation law — opinions evidently differ even among various city-paid attorneys in the parish — Youngsville’s vote Wednesday effectively blocks Broussard from any further westward expansion along Ambassador. Or, if Broussard Mayor Charles Langlinais’ assertion is correct that annexations needn’t be contiguous from a city’s corporate limits, Wednesday’s action could be a precursor to litigation between the two cities.
Langlinais attended Wednesday’s meeting in an apparent effort to offer an olive branch to Youngsville. The Broussard City Council Tuesday night tabled an annexation ordinance that would have overlapped Youngsville’s plan; Youngsville already had certification of petitions from the requisite number of landowners and registered voters in the area, and many on the Youngsville side were wary of Langlinais’ overtures.
“Why is it that Broussard is wanting to jump over and get into areas that would be a golden opportunity for Youngsville to have commercial development?” asked Youngsville Councilman Tim Barbier.
Langlinais reminded the Youngsville officials twice during the meeting that the Ambassador extension would not have happened had the city of Broussard not put up $10 million to convince the state to complete the roadway to U.S. 90. And Langlinais asserted that all he wanted was an amendment to Youngsville’s annexation ordinance allowing Broussard to run water and sewer along the edge of Ambassador to reach property farther west of Bonin Road that Broussard intended to annex.
But Mayor Viator was having none of it, striking his gavel at least twice during the approximately 40-minute meeting to interrupt Langlinais. “Mayor, you’re out of order,” Viator said brusquely early in the meeting. “We’re not here to talk about sewer. We here to talk about Ambassador Caffery road. Stick to the subject.”
The meeting took on an additional level of heat when it was revealed that Youngsville Councilman Pat Huval, a presumptive challenger to Viator in the next mayoral election, had discussions with Langlinais about Youngsville’s annexation plans. Huval insisted those contacts were merely a matter of maintaining good relations with Youngsville’s neighboring town.
“I’m all about making money for the town of Youngsville so we can give back to the people,” Huval said.
“So why are we concerned about Broussard?” countered Barbier.
Youngsville’s city attorney, George Knox, made the most forceful case for proceeding with the annexation: “If I’m asked for my recommendation to you as the attorney, I say annex the property tonight,” Knox said. “If tomorrow we want to enter into negotiations with the city of Broussard … all those things are still open and will be available for discussion. But if you come in and you start altering what has been put forth and what has been published, you’re running the risk that the entire annexation is going to fall… My research shows we have 100 percent followed the letter of the law, and we’re ready to annex this property.”
Commercial development along the stretch annexed by Youngsville is expected by some estimates to generate more than $3 million in annual sales tax. Currently the city, which is overwhelmingly a bedroom community for the city of Lafayette with a lot of residential development and very little retail development, takes in just over $2 million per year in sales tax.
Shortly before the assembly voted and adjourned, Langlinais said, “The point that I’m trying to make to the citizens of Youngsville is, don’t poison the well.”
After the meeting, Langlinais told a Lafayette television reporter, “They poisoned the well.”