LAFAYETTE — The border between Lafayette and Vermilion parishes is once again in dispute after the Lafayette City-Parish Council voted unanimously late Tuesday to toss out a ten-year-old agreement with the Vermilion Parish Police Jury on where the line should be.
City-Parish Councilman Don Bertrand, who pushed the measure, has long argued that the agreement gave too much land to Vermilion Parish because the line was based on incomplete historical records.
Bertrand, who was not a council member when the agreement was approved, said recent research has uncovered information that points to where the line should really be. But Vermilion officials question whether Lafayette has grounds to back out of the agreement.
“As far as Vermilion is concerned, we have a binding public contract,” Vermilion Parish Police Jury attorney Paul Moresi III said in an interview last week.
Lafayette’s decision Tuesday does not move the boundary but rather brings its location back into legal dispute, because if both parishes do not agree on the location of the border, it will likely take action by the state Legislature or a judge to set it.
“There is an amicable remedy, and then there is a remedy that would take place in the courts,” Bertrand said.
Vermilion Parish was carved out of Lafayette Parish in 1844.
Only portions of the border are in dispute.
Various estimates put the amount of property at stake between 300 acres and 1,100 acres, much of it farm land.
The border has been in question off-and-on for decades, but the issue came to a head in 1999 when then-Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Lenwood Broussard argued challenger Linda Duhon should not be allowed to run against him because she lived in Vermilion Parish.
Duhon had paid taxes and voted in Lafayette Parish for several years, but a state judge sided with Broussard, ruling Duhon could not run because she was a resident of Vermilion Parish.
In 2002, the Lafayette City-Parish Council and the Vermilion Parish Police Jury agreed to settle the border question by asking a third-party, the state Land Office, to research where the parish boundary should be.
The agreement also called on the parishes “to accept the findings of the state Land Office’s survey,” and both parishes voted in 2003 to adopt the line as drawn by the Land Office.
The Land Office relied largely on a border drawn in the 1930s at the request of Vermilion Parish, which had voted at the time to adopt the new boundary.
Bertrand argues that the Land Office report left out records indicating the old Lafayette Police Jury did not accept the boundary from the 1930s survey and voted to fight it.
New research has also uncovered field notes from surveys in the 1800s that can be used to better chart the boundary as it existed when Vermilion Parish was created.
Moresi has disputed that the Land Office made a mistake and that, regardless, the parishes agreed to approve the line as drawn by the Land Office.