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Lafayette owes $11.5 million over Homewood Detention Pond project

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2024 | Property & Environmental Litigation

A settlement has been reached in a case involving the Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG) and 372 acres of land along the Vermilion River that were seized without due process. 

Per recent news reports, the LCG will pay $11.5 million to buy the property from the owners, known as Bendel Partnership, out of American Rescue Plan Act funds, which will not affect the Parish General Fund.

When the negotiations failed, LCG moved too fast

The 372 acres in question were leased for farming in Lafayette Parish by the Bendel Partnership, and they ran from Homewood Drive and Rue Fosse to Bendel Road, as well as along Duhon Road south of Ridge Road and east of Micmac Land. Lafayette declared the property a public necessity to help with flooding in the area. Thus, the Homewood Detention Pond project was born.

Initially, LCG offered Bendel Partnership $2.58 million (which is clearly much less than the property is worth given the final agreed-upon settlement). When negotiations broke down in late 2021, LCG petitioned for seizure. Bendel Partnership responded by filing an injunction to temporarily stop any development on the property while they pursued their legal options, but LCG’s contractor began work anyhow, leaving significant damage. Construction was ultimately halted pending the ongoing litigation in May 2022.

In subsequent litigation, Fifteenth Judicial Court Judge Valerie Gotch-Garret and judges from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Bendel Partnership’s position. They determined that LCG acted improperly both when it decided where to build, since it studied only the Bendel property instead of looking at comparisons, and when it seized the property early. In addition, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office is now investigating Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s administration over several flood control projects, including the Homewood Detention Pond project. 

Cases like these illustrate how the checks and balances within the legal system can prevent owners from being forced to settle for less than they’re rightfully due when a property is taken under eminent domain