The border between Lafayette and Vermilion parishes is staying put for now.
Lafayette Parish lost a court battle this week in its effort to push the long-disputed parish line a little farther into Vermilion Parish.
The location of the boundary was once thought to have been settled by a 2002 agreement between the two parishes, but the Lafayette City-Parish Council voted in 2013 to back out of the deal, reviving the dormant border dispute with arguments that the current parish line is based on incomplete historical research.
Vermilion Parish, which prevailed at a Monday hearing of dueling legal claims before 15th Judicial District Judge John Trahan, maintained the 2002 agreement was binding and downplayed the significance of what Lafayette officials argued were critical survey notes not considered.
“From Vermilion’s standpoint, we hope this is finally the end of it,” Vermilion Parish attorney Paul Moresi III said.
Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Don Bertrand, who has been active in efforts to challenge the current line, said an appeal is being considered but no decision has been made.
Moresi said roughly 1,200 acres are at stake in the case, mostly sparsely populated rural land west of the Vermilion River.
Vermilion Parish was carved out of Lafayette Parish in 1844, and the precise location of the dividing line has been repeatedly questioned in the years since.
“The description of this boundary is somewhat vague,” Moresi said. “There has always been some ambiguity about where that line was.”
One of the more recent flare ups in the border dispute was in 1999, when former City-Parish Councilman Lenwood Broussard argued that opponent Linda Duhon should not have been allowed to run against him because she lived in Vermilion Parish.
A judge sided with Broussard, ruling that Duhon, who paid taxes and voted in Lafayette Parish, actually lived on the Vermilion side of the line.
Duhon and other border residents countered with an unsuccessful federal lawsuit alleging a political effort to push them out of the parish.
In an effort to finally settle the issue, Vermilion and Lafayette parishes agreed in 2002 to have the State Land Office research the line and to adopt whatever boundary the state agency drew.
That agreement was made under the administration of former City-Parish President Walter Comeaux.
City-Parish President Joey Durel, who took office in 2004, and several of the current council members have questioned whether the line was drawn in the right place.
Pinpointing the exact location of the line has been made difficult because a portion of the boundary is described in historical records based on the location of certain “timbers” that have long since disappeared.
But attorneys for city-parish government have argued that field notes from surveys in the 1800s — notes not reviewed by the State Land Office — clearly show where the border was drawn when Vermilion Parish was created in 1844.
Moresi said the old field notes are just one piece of the puzzle and that the State Land Office thoroughly researched the issue.
“They did the best they could with what they had,” he said.
Follow Richard Burgess on Twitter, @rbb100.