Council Preview: City Council to vote on contentious Northside mental health facility

Here is a selection of items on the agendas for this week’s meetings of the City and Parish councils. To see the full agendas, check out the links below:

Lafayette 101
Executive Session

Public bodies in Louisiana are required to meet in open session in most cases, but strict exemptions in state law allow them to discuss public business behind closed doors when dealing with personnel, legal and security issues or emergencies. Bodies are not allowed to vote while in executive session, and must make any votes on matters discussed in executive session only after returning to their public meeting.

Parish Council

Reports & Discussions

Audit update. An update on this year’s scathing audit is back on the agenda Tuesday after being offered by Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s administration at both councils’ second meetings in October. The update was originally on LCG’s use of bonded capital funds to pay a settlement with farmers leasing land on the Bendel property LCG seized for the Homewood Drive detention ponds. But LCG has since requested an Attorney General’s opinion on several audit findings, prompting a strong response from St. Martin Parish over its narrative of the Bayou Tortue Swamp spoil banks removal last year.

Final Adoption

Jail lease. The Parish Council will vote Tuesday on an agreement that would lease the land LCG purchased for a new jail on Willow Street to the Sheriff’s Office for construction of a new law enforcement complex. LCG and the sheriff received a combined $25 million from the state this year to move the jail and the sheriff’s Downtown operations to the Willow Street location. LCG is months behind on updating the Parish Council about ongoing negotiations with the contractors selected to build the new jail through a public-private partnership, which the parish likely cannot afford.

Introduction

$82 million. The Parish Council will start the process of recognizing an additional $3 million from the state for its Bayou Vermilion Flood Control project, which includes the massive and embattled Homewood Drive detention ponds, as well as a major group of detention ponds along Coulee Ile des Cannes near Ridge Road. The $3 million, alongside another $10 million expected from the state in the future, brings the state’s share of the project up to $61.6 million, which is being matched by $20.5 million from parish government, largely through federal Covid relief funds. LCG has all but finished work at the CIDC ponds, and it expects to finish the Homewood ponds by February.

Louisiana Avenue. Also up for preliminary consideration Tuesday is a plan by Guillory’s administration to shift $1.6 million in Covid funds to the Louisiana Avenue extension project by cutting funding for Carmel Drive sidewalks and a City-Parish Hall roof replacement, and spending $635,000 of the parish’s unallocated funds.

City Council

Executive Session

Lost lawsuit. Lafayette’s City Council is asking Guillory’s administration for a closed-door session on the lawsuit LCG recently lost against the appraiser who determined the value of the land Guillory’s administration purchased for the spoil banks removal. LCG misinterpreted the appraiser’s valuation and overpaid the land owners, which was flagged in this year’s audit. Guillory’s administration sought to blame the appraiser in court, but lost that argument in October. LCG appealed the district court’s ruling on Oct. 19.

Reports & Discussions

Audit update. Guillory’s administration will present a similar update on the same audit finding to the City Council after Tuesday’s Parish Council meeting. The update was originally on LCG’s use of bonded capital funds to pay a settlement with farmers leasing land on the Bendel property LCG seized for the Homewood Drive detention ponds. But LCG has since requested an attorney general’s opinion on several audit findings, prompting a strong response from St. Martin Parish over its narrative of the Bayou Tortue Swamp spoil banks removal last year. 

City Court move. City Councilwoman Nanette Cook is seeking an update from Guillory’s administration on the progress of its accelerated push to relocate City Court to the Lemoine Building Downtown, which LCG reached a deal to purchase last month. Details on the deal have been sparse, and City Court judges Doug Saloom and Jules Edwards III have expressed concerns about the pace of the relocation, as has the council, which nevertheless approved $9.5 million for the move in September. The proposed relocation is part of Guillory’s plan for a deal with Rock ‘N’ Bowl owner Johnny Blancher to turn the current City Court campus into a mixed-used development with more than 200 residential units. 

Oxford Houses. City Councilwoman Liz Hebert is planning a council discussion on Oxford Houses, which offer sober living support for people suffering from substance abuse, at Tuesday’s council meeting. Lafayette has several Oxford Houses operating around the city. Those and other sober living homes generally have broad protections under federal law, making it challenging for cities to regulate them.

Final Adoption

Mental health facility. The City Council is set to vote Tuesday on a zoning change that would allow the old J. Wallace James Elementary School on Poydras Street to be converted into a mental health facility. The council initially pushed back its vote on the rezoning plan, which is needed for the project to move forward, in response to weeks long opposition from neighbors over safety concerns.

Introduction

New signal. City Councilman Andy Naquin is proposing a plan Tuesday to spend up to $250,000 to add a traffic signal to the intersection of Congress and Marie Antoinette streets near Lafayette High School. Marie Antoinette is frequently used as a connection between Congress and Johnston streets, and its intersection with Congress is a regular choke point for traffic, particularly during congested school arrival and departure times.

Moore Park. Guillory’s administration is asking the City Council to declare the overhaul of Moore Park near University Avenue a public necessity, which would allow Guillory to make agreements, spend money and even expropriate property. Plans include renovating nine of the park’s soccer fields and adding parking in currently-vacant areas in a $15 million bid to increase Lafayette’s sports tourism industry. The City Council has previously pushed back against the Guillory administration’s use of “public necessity” ordinances after they were used for controversial quick take expropriations on Homewood Drive and Lake Farm Road in 2021.

Joint Items

Final Adoption

Parks money. LCG is recognizing $3 million from the state for recreation spending, $1 million of which will go to improvements at Picard Park near the Homewood Drive detention ponds while another $1 million will be used to buy new golf carts. The rest will be split between $500,000 for a BMX track and $500,000 for improvements to the fields at Moore Park. 

Grant money. Guillory’s administration has five ordinances before the councils Tuesday to distribute $845,000 in federal grant funding to community service groups. The proposed awards are:

$225,000 to Acadiana Cares

Introduction

No significant items.

Property

AddressApprovalAction
212 E Cypress St.Joint councilsDonation of adjudicated property to non-profit Year Round Open Door Ministries [Final]
821 Foreman DriveJoint councilsSale of adjudicated property to adjoining landowner [Resolution]
1114, 1116, 1120 & 1204 S Sterling St.Joint councilsDonation of adjudicated property to non-profit Open Doors Louisiana [Intro]
100 Poydras StreetCity CouncilRezoning from Residential Mixed (RM-1) to Commercial Mixed (CM-1) [Final]
421 Carmel Drive & 1508 Louisiana Ave.City CouncilRezoning from Residential Single-Family (RS-1) to Commercial-Heavy (CH), Mixed-Use Neighborhood (MN-1) and Public/Institutional Light (PI-L) [Intro]
406 East Simcoe St.City CouncilRezoning from Mixed-Use Neighborhood (MN-1) to Mixed-Use Neighborhood (MN-2) [Intro]
200-400 Block Bertrand DriveCity CouncilRezoning from Commercial-Heavy (CH) to Commercial Mixed (CM-1) and Mixed-Use Neighborhood (MN-1) [Intro]
Planned council actions related to property, such as rezonings, annexations and disposition of adjudicated properties

Vacancies

BoardApprovalQualifications
Lafayette Parish Waterworks District North BoardParish CouncilApplicants must reside with the Lafayette Parish Waterworks District North boundaries
Lafayette Public Innovation Alliance Board (4 seats)Parish CouncilNone listed
Lafayette Mayor-President’s Awareness Committee on Citizens with DisabilitiesParish CouncilApplicants must be submitted by non-profit agencies working with disabled citizens of the parish of Lafayette
Lafayette Parish Waterworks District South BoardCity CouncilApplicants must reside with the Lafayette Parish Waterworks District South boundaries
Evangeline Thruway Redevelopment TeamCity CouncilNone listed
Applicants must be registered voters and residents of Lafayette Parish. Email resumes to [email protected] no later than noon, Tuesday, Nov. 21.

Appointments

BoardApprovalApplicants
Lafayette Parish Library Board of ControlParish CouncilRoslyn Bergeron, Wayne Colvin, Christie L. Maloyed, Allan Moore, and Azadeh Yazdi-Kaufman
Lafayette Convention & Visitors CommissionParish CouncilMarkeda Ann Cottonham, James J. Dore, Jessica Leger, and Alexandria Sarp
Board of Zoning AdjustmentCity CouncilKrystal Mouton
Evangeline Thruway Redevelopment Team (2 seats)City CouncilErica Melancon Fox & Kevin Blanchard
Evangeline Thruway Redevelopment Team (2 seats)Mayor-PresidentAzadeh Yazdi & Joyce Linde