LAFAYETTE — Legislation that would have created a new agency to address blight issues in the parish has foundered for a second straight year.
State Rep. Joel Robideaux, No-Party, Lafayette, had sponsored the legislation this session at the request of City-Parish President Joey Durel’s administration, but Robideaux said Tuesday that he has pulled the bill over questions about the proposed agency’s taxing authority and the make-up of its board.
Robideaux also cited opposition to the legislation, which has come from a diverse group that includes the Tea Party of Lafayette, the parish’s Democratic Party leadership and at least two members of the City-Parish Council.
“It was just too divided,” Robideaux said.
Durel offered a different explanation for the legislation’s death this session, saying that he had requested that the bill be shelved because the council has not moved forward with some changes in local law that are needed to make the new agency effective.
The legislation would have created the Lafayette Parish Redevelopment Authority, a new agency that Durel said would have focused on redeveloping abandoned and blighted property.
The proposed agency, modeled after a similar one in East Baton Rouge Parish, would have had the ability to buy and sell land, partner with private developers, borrow money, and levy taxes in the name of redevelopment.
The legislation also would have streamlined a process for seizing abandoned property with long overdue tax bills.
“It’s a solution to a problem that has frustrated many local governments,” Durel said.
A nearly identical piece of legislation was dropped last year after opposition mounted, and the list of opponents seems to have only grown in the meantime.
Both Robideaux and Durel left open the possibility of trying a third time to create the redevelopment authority.
But Robideaux said he would seek clarification on what powers the new agency would have to impose a tax with a vote of the people.
Under the current legislation, the redevelopment authority, like similar agencies in other areas, could have imposed an additional sales tax without voter approval in some circumstances.
The taxing issue has been a key talking point in the Tea Party of Lafayette’s opposition.
The legislation also drew opposition from councilmen Kenneth Boudreaux and Brandon Shelvin, who questioned, among other things, the make-up of the authority’s board.
The legislation creating the authority called for a five-member board, with one appointment each from the city-parish president, the council, the Community Foundation of Acadiana, the minority state Senate seat for Lafayette and the minority state House seat for Lafayette.
Shelvin said that he would have been more inclined to support the legislation if board appointments had been given to him and Boudreaux, the council members who represent an area in north Lafayette most affected by blight issues.
“Hopefully, we can possibly come together next session, because we do have some issues with blighted property,” Shelvin said.