ONE POINT FIVE MILLION DOLLARS. That's the value of Lafayette attorney Jimmy Davidson's Girard Park Drive property -- less than half the $3.25 million UL Lafayette was going to pay in the now-defunct horse farm land swap deal -- according to the most recent appraisal of the land. The contentious appraisal, which The Independent Weekly successfully argued was a public record in a June 30 lawsuit against the university, was turned over by UL on Monday. The university decided not to appeal 15th Judicial District Judge Ed Rubin's Sept. 11 decision that the document, prepared by Lafayette appraiser Lane Godshall, is a public record ordered in connection with the proposed property exchange (all other appraisals had been eagerly released by the university). Rubin rejected the university's claim that the document was prepared in anticipation of litigation ' specifically a potential expropriation lawsuit the state might one day file to seize the Davidson property.
The $1.75 million discrepancy in the overvalued Davidson land isn't all the university stood to lose. It was also leaving $2.12 million on the table by selling the horse farm acreage as undervalued residential land while attempting to rezone it to a more valuable commercial zoning classification for the buyer. That's almost $4 million the university was squandering in this deal, which the Board of Supervisors for the UL System approved in August 2005 ' not to mention how close Lafayette came to having the state's beloved horse farm acreage turned into a retail center with a planned Wal-Mart store. Thanks to widespread community activism and opposition, the 100-acre horse farm is -- for now -- safe from this kind of development.
In a secretive deal between a tight-knit group of university officials and supporters that smacked of cronyism, the university had proposed exchanging 36 acres of its horse farm land on Johnston Street for 4.1 acres of Davidson's family land on Girard Park Drive, claiming both were valued at $3.25 million. The first Davidson appraisal was conducted in December 2003 by now-retired appraiser George Parker, a close associate of Davidson's. UL President Ray Authement testified in his deposition that he did not officially call off the exchange until mid-June, when he met with the respective parties; the university did not publicly acknowledge the land swap's demise until almost a month later.
While handing over the appraisal to The Independent Weekly, the university issued a tersely worded press release to local media saying it initially assumed the appraisal was a public record and was prepared to make the document public: "Upon learning of a state statute that specifically excepts appraisals from the Public Records Law and learning of the Division of Administration's policy prohibiting release of appraisals, the university sought advice of legal counsel. Acting upon this advice, the university did not release the appraisal." The Louisiana Public Records Law does not exempt land appraisals, except in specific cases where there is ongoing or impending litigation, but the Division of Administration has kept all such appraisals from the public under that guise for decades, citing only its unwritten, long-standing policy of not releasing appraisals of land the state is interested in acquiring.
It was the Board of Supervisors for the UL System that stepped in at the 11th hour to order "independent" appraisals of both the Davidson property and the horse farm acreage, but the horse farm has yet to be reappraised. The board intervened on Dec. 7 only after being compelled to do so by the $2.12 discrepancy on the horse farm.
In contrast to the position Authement asserts in Monday's press release, the university president said in his Aug. 31 deposition that the value of the new appraisal of Davidson's property should not be released, even though his friend Davidson already knew the value. The first reason he cited? "Public opinion."
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
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.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
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.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
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.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand: